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THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



idi^ ^ut o^ Ur 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2008 with funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 



http://www.archive.org/details/bookofedinburghaOOwatt 



THE BOOK OF 

EDINBURGH 
ANECDOTE 

BY FRANCIS WATT 



T. N. FOULIS 
LONDON ^ EDINBURGH 

I 9 1 2 



Published November igi2 



Printed by MORRISON & GiBB LIMITED, Edinburgh 



D/1 



TO 

CHARLES BAXTER, Writer to the Signet 

Sienna 

In Faithful Memory 

OF the Old Days and the 

Old Friends 









LIBRARY 



THE LIST OF CHAPTERS 

I. Parliament House and Lawyers . . page 3 
II. The Church in Edinburgh 31 

III. Town's College and Schools 55 

IV. Surgeons and Doctors 73 

V. Royalty 103 

VI. Men of Letters, Part 1 131 

VII. Men of Letters, Part II 151 

VIII. The Artists 177 

IX. The Women of Edinburgh 195 

X. The Supernatural 219 

XL The Streets 241 

XII. The City 269 

Index 289 



THE LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Lord Cockburn frontispiece 

By Sir J. Watson Gordon 

Sir Thomas Hamilton, First Earl of 

Haddington page 8 

John Clerk, Lord Eldin i6 

From a mezzotint after Sir Henry Raeburn, R.A. 

John Inglis, Lord President of the Court of 

Session 24 

From a painting in the Parliament House. By permission 
of the Faculty of Advocates, 

Mr. James Guthrie . 36 

From an old engraving. 

Sir Archibald Johnston, Lord Warriston . . 40 
From a painting by GEORGE Jamesone. 

Rev. Sir Henry Moncreiff-Wellwood .... 48 
From an engraving after Sir Henry Raeburn, R.A. 

Robert Leighton, D.D., Archbishop of Glasgow 56 
From an engraving by Sir Robert Strange. 

Principal William Carstares 64 

From the engraving by Jeens. By kind permission of 
Messrs. Macmillan & Co., London. 



Dr. Archibald Pitcairne 88 

From an engraving after Sir John Medina. 

Dr. Alexander Wood 92 

From an engraving after AILISON. 
ix 



THE LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Professor James Syme page 96 

From a drawing in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. 

Margaret Tudor, Queen of James IV 104 

From the painting by Mabuse. 
Mary of Guise, Queen of James V 108 

From an old engraving. 

Mary, Queen OF Scots 112 

From the Morton portrait. 

William Drummond of Hawthornden . . . .132 
From the painting by Cornelius Jonson van Ceulen 

James Boswell 144 

From an engraving after Sir Joshua Reynolds, /".R. A. 

Henry Mackenzie, "The Man of Feeling" . . 152 

From an engraving after Andrew Geddes. 

John Leyden 160 

From a pen drawing. 

Robert Louis Stevenson as an Edinburgh 

Student 172 

Allan Ramsay, Painter 180 

From a mezzotint after Artist's own painting. 

Rev. John Thomson of Duddingston .... 184 

From the engraving by Croll. 

Mrs. Alison Cockburn 200 

P'rom a photograph. 

Miss Jean Elliot .... 204 

From a sepia drawing. 



THE LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Susanna, Countess of Eglinton .... page 208 
From the painting by Gavin Hamilton. 

Caroline, Baroness Nairne 212 

From a lithograph. 

Mrs. SiDDONS AS "The Tragic Muse" .... 216 
From an engraving after Sir JoSHUA REYNOLDS, /".R.A. 

James IV 220 

From an old engraving. 

A Bedesman or Bluegown '240 

From a sketch by Monro S. Orr. 

Allan Ramsay, Poet 248 

From an engraving after William Aikman. 

Andrew Crosbie, " Pleydell " 256 

From a painting in the ParUament House. By permis- 
sion of the Faculty of Advocates. 

Rev. Thomas Somerville 272 

From a photograph in the Scottish National Portrait Gal- 
lery. 

William Smellie 280 

From an engraving after George Watson. 



CHAPTER ONE 

THE PARLIAMENT HOUSE AND THE 
LAWYERS 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

CHAPTER ONE 

PARLIAMENT HOUSE(^ LAWYERS 

THE PARLIAMENT HOUSE HAS ALWAYS 
had a reputation for good anecdote. There are solid 
reasons for this. It is the haunt of men, clever, highly 
educated, well off, and the majority of them with an 
alltooabundantleisure. The tyranny of custom forces 
them to pace day after day that ancient hall, remark- 
able even in Edinburgh for august memories, as their 
predecessors have done for generations. There are 
statues such as thoseof Blair of Avontoun and Forbes 
of Culloden, and portraits like those of " Bluidy Mac- 
kenzie " and Braxfield, — all men who lived and la- 
boured in the precincts, — to recall and revivify the 
past, while there is also the Athenian desire to hear 
some new thing, to retail the last good story about 
Lord this or Sheriff that. 

So there is a great mass of material. Let me pre- 
sent some morsels for amusement or edification. Most 
are stories of judges, though it may be of them be- 
fore they were judges. A successful counsel usually 
ends on the bench, and at the Scots bar the excep- 
tions are rare indeed. The two most prominent that 
occur to one are Sir George Mackenzie and Henry 
Erskine. Now, Scots law lords at one time invari- 
ably, and still frequently, take a title from landed es- 
tate. This was natural. A judge was a person with 
some landed property, which was in early times the 
3 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

only property considered as such, and in Scotland, 
as everybody knows, the man was called after his 
estate. Monkbarns of the Antiquary is a classic in- 
stance, and it was only giving legal confirmation to 
this, to make the title a fixed one in the case of the 
judges. They never signed their names this way, 
and were sometimes sneered at as paper lords. To- 
day, when the relative value of things is altered, they 
would probably prefer their paper title. According 
to tradition their wives laid claim to a corresponding 
dignity, but James v., the founder of the College of 
Justice,sternly repelled thepresumptuousdames,with 
a remark out of keeping with his traditional reputa- 
tion for gallantry. " He had made the carles lords, 
butwhathedeil made thecarlinesleddies?" Popular 
custom was kinder than the King, and they got to be 
called ladies, till a newer fashion deprived them of 
the honour. It was sometimes awkward. A judge 
and his wife went furth of Scotland, and the exact 
relations between Lord A, and Mrs. B. gravelled 
the wits of many an honest landlord. The gentleman 
and lady were evidently on the most intimate terms, 
yet how to explain their different names ? Of late 
the powers that be have intervened in the lady's fa- 
vour, and she has now her title assured her by royal 
mandate. 

Once or twice the territorial designation bore an 
ugly purport. Jeffrey kept, it is said, his own name, for 
Lord Craigcrook would never have done. Craig is 
Scots for neck, and why should a man name himselfa 
hanging judge to start with ? This was perhaps too 
great a concession to the cheap wits of the Parliament 

4 



PARLIAMENT HOUSES? LAWYERS 

House, and perhaps it is not true, for in Jeffrey's days 
territorial titles for paper lords were at a discount, so 
that Lord Cockburn thought they would never revive, 
but the same thing is said of a much earlier judge. 
Fountainhall's Decisions is one of those books that 
every Scots advocate knows in name, and surely no 
Scots practising advocate knows in fact. Its author, 
Sir John Lauder, was a highly successful lawyer ofthe 
Restoration, and when his time came to go up there 
was one fly in the ointment of success. His compact 
little estate in East Lothian was called Woodhead. 
Lauder feared not unduly the easy sarcasms of fools, 
or the evil tongues of an evil time. Territorial title he 
must have, and he rather neatly solved the difficulty 
by changing Woodhead to Fountainhall, a euphoni- 
ous name, which the place still retains. 

When James VI. and I. came to his great estate in 
England, he was much impressed by the splendid 
robes ofthe English judges. His mighty Lord Chan- 
cellor would have told him that such things were but 
" toys," though even he would have admitted, they in- 
fluenced the vulgar. At any rate Solomon presently 
sent word to his old kingdom, that his judges and 
advocates there were to attire themselves in decent 
fashion. I f you stroll into the Parliament House to-day 
andviewthe twin groups ofthe Inner House, you will 
say they went one better than their English brothers. 

A Scots judge in those times had not seldom a 
plurality of offices : thus the first Earl of Haddington 
was both President of the Court of Session and Sec- 
retary of State. He played many parts in his time, 
and he played them all well, for Tarn o' the Coogate 
5 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

was nothing if not acute. There are various stories of 
thisold-time statesman. This shows forth the man and 
the age. A highland chief was at law, and had led 
his men into the witness-box just as he would have 
led them to the tented field. The Lord President 
had taken one of them in hand, and sternly kept him 
to the point, and so wrung the facts out of him. When 
Donald escaped he was asked by his fellow-clansman 
whose turn was to follow, how he had done ? With 
every mark of sincere contrition and remorse, Donald 
groaned out, that he was afraid he had spoken the 
truth, and " Oh," he said, " beware of the man with the 
partridge eye ! " How the phrase brings the old judge, 
alert, keen, searching, before us ! By the time of the 
Restoration things were more specialised, and the law- 
yers of theday couldgive more attention to their own 
subject They were very talented, quite unscrupulous, 
terribly cruel; Courtofjusticeand Privy Councilalike 
are as the house of death. We shudder rather than 
laugh at the anecdotes. Warriston, Dirleton, Mac- 
kenzie, Lockhart, the great Stair himself, were remark- 
able men who at once attract and repel. Nisbet of 
Dirleton, like Lauder of Fountainhall, took his title 
from East Lothian — in both cases so tenacious is the 
legal grip, the properties are still in their families — 
and Dirleton's Doubts are still better known, and 
are less read, if that be possible, than Fountainhall's 
Decisions. You can even to-day look on Dirleton's big 
house on the south side of the Canongate, and Dirle- 
ton, if not "the pleasantest dwelling in Scotland," isa 
very delightful place, and within easy reach of the cap- 
ital. But the original Nisbet was, I fear, a worse rascal 

6 



PARLIAMENT HOUSE^LAWYERS 

than any of his fellows, a treacherous, greedy knave. 
You might bribehis predecessor to spare blood, it was 
said, " but Nisbet was always so sore afraid of losing 
his own great estate, he could never in his own opinion 
be officious enough to serve his cruel masters." Here 
is the Nisbet story. In July 1668, Mitchell shot at 
Archbishop Sharp in the High Street, but, missing 
him, wounded Honeyman, Bishop of Orkney, who sat 
in the coach beside him. With an almost humorous 
cynicism some one remarked, it is only a bishop, and 
the crowd immediately discovered a complete lack of 
interest in the matter and in the track of the would- 
be assassin. Not so the Privy Council, which proceed- 
ed to a searching inquiry in the course whereof one 
Gray was examined, but for some time to little pur- 
pose. Nisbet as Lord Advocate took an active part, 
and bethought him of a trick worthy of a private in- 
quiry agent. He pretended to admire a ring on the 
man's finger, and asked to look at it ; the prisoner was 
only too pleased. Nisbet sent it off by a messenger 
to Gray's wife with a feigned message from her hus- 
band. She stopped not to reflect, but at once told all 
she knew ! this led to further arrests and further ex- 
aminations during which Nisbet suggested torture as 
a means of extracting information from some taciturn 
ladies ! Even his colleagues were abashed. " Thow 
rotten old devil," said Primrose, the Lord Clerk Reg- 
ister, " thow wilt get thyself stabbed some day." Even 
in friendly talk and counsel these old Scots, you will 
observe, were given to plain language. Fate was kind- 
er to Dirleton than he deserved, he died in quiet, rich, 
if not honoured, for his conduct in office was scandal- 
7 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

ous even for those times, yet his name is not remem- 
bered with the especial detestation allotted to that of 
"the bluidy advocate Mackenzie/'really amuchhigh- 
er type of man. Why the unsavoury epithet has stuck 
so closely to him is a curious caprice of fate or history. 
Perhaps it is that ponderous tomb in Old Greyfriars, 
insolently flaunting within a stone-throw of the Mar- 
tyrs' Monument, perhaps it is that jingle which (you 
suspect half mythical) Edinburgh callants used to 
occupy their spare time in shouting in at the keyhole, 
that made the thing stick. However, the dead-and- 
gone advocate preserves the stony silence of the tomb, 
and is still the most baffling and elusive personality 
in Scots history. The anecdotes of him are not of 
much account. One tells how the Marquis of Tweed- 
dale, anxious for his opinion, rode over to his country 
house at Shank at an hour so unconscionably early 
that Sir George was still abed. The case admitted 
of no delay, and the Marquis was taken to his room. 
The matter was stated and the opinion given from be- 
hind the curtains, and then ^.woviafi's handw3iSsX.reXr 
ched forth to receive the fee ! The advocate was not 
the most careful of men, so Lady Mackenzie deemed 
it advisable to take control of the financial depart- 
ment. Ofthisdame the gossipshintedtoointimate re- 
lations with Claverhouse,but there was no open scan- 
dal. Another brings us nearer the man. Sir George, 
by his famous entail act, tied up the whole land of 
the country in a settlement so strict that various meas- 
ures through the succeeding centuries only gradually 
and partially released it. Now the Earl of Bute was 
the favoured lover of his only daughter, but Macken- 

8 




SIR THOMAS HAMILTON, FIRST EARL OF HADDINGTON 
From the Portrait at Tynninghamc 



PARLIAMENT HOUSE^LAWYERS 

ziedid notapproveofthe proposed union. The wooer, 
however ardent, was prudent; he speculated how the 
estate would go if they made a runaway match of it. 
Who so fit to advise him as the expert on the law of 
entail? Havingdisguised himself — in those old Edin- 
burgh houses the light was never of the clearest — he 
sought my lord's opinion on a feigned case, which 
was in truth his own. The opinion was quite plain, 
and fell pat with his wishes ; the marriage was duly 
celebrated, and Sir George needs must submit. All 
his professional life Mackenzie was in the front of the 
battle, he was counsel for one side or the other in every 
great trial, and not seldom these were marked by most 
dramatic incidents. When hedefended Argyll in 1661 
before the Estates, on a charge of treason, the judges 
were already pondering their verdict when " one who 
came fast from London knocked most rudely at the 
Parliament door." Hegavehis nameas Campbell, and 
produced what he said were important papers. Mac- 
kenzieand his fellows possibly thought his testimony 
might turn the wavering balance in their favour — alas! 
they were letters from Argyll proving that he had act- 
ively supported the Protectorate, an d so sealed the fate 
of the accused. Again, at Baillie of Jerviswood's trial 
in 1684 one intensely dramatic incident was an ac- 
count given by the accused with bitter emphasis of a 
private interview between him and Mackenzie some 
time before. The advocate was prosecuting with all 
his usual bluster, but here he was taken completely 
aback, and stammered out some lame excuse. This 
did not affect the verdict, however, and Jerviswood 
went speedily to his death. The most remarkable 
9 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

story about Mackenzie is that after the Estates had 
declared for the revolutionary cause in April 1 689, and 
his public life-was over, ere he fled southward, he spent 
great part of his last night in Edinburgh in the Grey- 
friars Churchyard. The meditations among the tombs 
of the ruined statesmen were, you easily divine, of a 
very bitter and piercing character. Sir George Lock- 
hart, his great rival at the bar and late Lord President 
of the Court of Session, had a few days before been 
buried in the very spot selected by Mackenzie for 
his own resting-place, where now rises that famous 
mausoleum. Sir George was shot dead on the after- 
noon of Sunday 31st March in that year by Chiesly 
of Dairy in revenge for some j udicial decision, appar- 
ently a perfectly just one, which he had given against 
him. Even in that time of excessive violence and pas- 
sion Chiesly was noted as a man of extreme and un- 
governable temper. He made little secret of his inten- 
tion ; he was told the very imagination of it was a sin be- 
fore God. "Let God and me alone; we have many things 
to reckon betwixt us, and we will reckon this too." He 
did the deed as his victim was returning from church ; 
he said he"existed to learn the Presidenttodo justice," 
and received with open satisfaction the news that 
Lockhart was dead. "He was not used to do things 
by halves." He was tortured and executed with no 
delay, his friends removed the body in the darkness 
of night and buried it at Dairy, so it was rumoured, 
and the discovery of some remains there a century 
afterwards was supposed to confirm the story. The 
house at Dairy was reported to be haunted by the 
ghost of the murderer ; it was the fashion of the time 

10 



PARLIAMENT HOUSE(^ LAWYERS 

to people every remarkable spot with gruesome 
phantoms. 

An anecdote, complimentary to both, connects the 
name of Lockhart with that of Sir James Stewart of 
Goodtrees (pronounced Gutters, Moredun is the mod- 
ern name), who was Lord Advocate both to William 
III. and Queen Anne. An imposing figure this, and a 
man of most adventurous life. In his absence he was 
sentenced to death by the High Court of Justiciary. 
This was in 1684. The Lord Advocate (Bluidy Mac- 
kenzie to wit), after sentence, electrified the court by 
shouting out, that the whole family was sailing under 
false colours, " these forefault Stewarts are damned 
Macgregors" (the clan name was proscribed). And 
yetMackenzieought to have feltkindly to Stewart, as 
perhaps he did, and possibly gave him a hint when to 
make himself scarce. One curious story tells of Mac- 
kenzie employing him in London with great success 
in a debate about the position of the Scots Episcopal 
Church. Both Lockhart and Mackenzie confessed 
him their master in the profound intricacies of the 
Scots law. A W.S. once had to lay a case before 
Lockhart on some very difficult question. Stewart 
was in hiding, but the agent tracked him out, and got 
him to prepare the memorial. Sir George pondered 
the paper for some time, then he started up and look- 
ed the W.S.broadinthe face, "by God,if James Stew- 
art is in Scotland or alive, this is his draft ; and why 
did you not make him solve your difficulty? " The 
agent muttered that he wanted both opinions. He 
then showed him what Stewart had prepared ; this 
Lockhart emphatically accepted as the deliverance 
II 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

of the oracle. Stewart had a poor opinion of contem- 
porary lawyers. Show me the man and I'll show you 
the law, quoth he. Decisions, he said, went by favour 
and not by right. Stewart made his peace with James's 
government, near the end, and though he did so with- 
out any sacrifice of principle, men nicknamed him 
Jamie Wilie. It seemed a little odd that through it 
all he managed to keep his head on his shoulders. 
A staunch Presbyterian, he was yet for the time a lib- 
eral and enlightened jurist, and introduced many im- 
portant reforms in Scots criminal law. That it fell to 
him to prosecute Thomas Aikenhead for blasphemy 
was one of fate's little ironies ; Aikenhead went to his 
death on the 8th January 1697. The Advocate's Close, 
where Stewart lived, and which is called after him, still 
reminds us of this learned citizen of old Edinburgh. 
In the eighteenth century we are in a different at- 
mosphere; those in high place did not go in constant 
fear of their life, they were not so savage, so suspic- 
ious, so revengful, they were witty and playful. On 
the other hand, their ways were strangely different 
from the monotonous propriety of to-day. Kames 
and Monboddo are prominent instances, they were 
both literary lawyers and constant rivals. Once 
Kames asked Monboddo if he had read his last book; 
the other saw his chance and took it, " No, my lord, 
you write a great deal faster than I am able to read." 
Kames presently got his chance. Monboddo had in 
some sense anticipated the Darwinian theory, he was 
certain at any rate that everybody was born with 
a tail. He believed that the sisterhood of midwives 
were pledged to remove it, and it is said he watched 

12 



PARLIAMENT HOUSE ©= LAWYERS 

many a birth asnear as decency permitted butalways 
with disappointing results. At a party he politely in- 
vited Kames to enter the room before him, " By no 
means," said Kames, " go first, my lord, that I may 
get a look at your tail." Kames had a grin between 
a sneer and a smile, probably here the sneer predom- 
inated. But perhaps it was taken as a compliment. 
" Mony is as proud of his tail as a squirrel," said Dr. 
Johnson. He died when eighty-seven. He used to ride 
to London every year, to the express admiration and 
delight of George ill. One wonders if he ever heard 
of the tradition that at Strood, in Kent, all children 
are born with tails — a mediaeval jape from the legend 
of an insult to St. Thomas of Canterbury: he might 
have found this some support to his theory ! On the 
bench he was like a stuffed monkey, but for years he 
sat at the clerks' table. He had a lawsuit about a 
horse, argued it in person before his colleagues and 
camehopelessly to grief You are bound to assume the 
decision was right, though those old Scots worthies 
dearly loved a slap at one another, and thus he would 
not sit withLord President Dundas again; more likely, 
being somewhat deaf, he wished to hear better. He 
was a great classical scholar, and said that no man 
could write English who did not know Greek, a very 
palpable hit at Lord Kames, who knew everything 
but Greek. The suppers he gave at St. John Street, 
off the Canongate, are still fragrant in the memory, 
" light and choice, of Attic taste," no doubt ; but the 
basis you believe was Scots, solid and substantial. 
And they had native dishes worth eating in quaint 
eighteenth-century Edinburgh ! The grotesque old 
13 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

man had a beautiful daughter, Elizabeth Burnet, 
whose memory lives for ever in the pathetic lines of 
Burns. She died of consumption in 1 790, and to blunt, 
if possible, the father's sorrow, his son-in-law covered 
up her portrait. Monboddo's look sought the place 
when he entered the room. " Quite right, quite right," 
he muttered, "and now let us get on with our Herodo- 
tus." For that day, perhaps, his beloved Greek failed 
to charm. Kames was at least like Monboddo in one 
thing — oddity. On the bench he had "the obstinacy 
of a mule and the levity of a harlequin,"saidacounsel ; 
but his broad jokes with his broad dialect found favour 
in an age when everything was forgiven to pungency. 
He wrote muchon many themes. If you want to know 
a subject write a book on it, said he, a precept which 
may be excellent from the author's point of view, but 
what about the reader? — but who reads him now? 
Yet it was his to be praised, or, at any rate, criticised. 
Adam Smithsaid, we must all acknowledge him asour 
master. And Pitt and his circle told this same Adam 
Smith that they were all his scholars. Boswell once 
urged his merits on Johnson. " We have at least Lord 
Kames," he ruefully pleaded. The leviathan frame 
shook with ponderous mirth, " Keep him, ha, ha, ha, 
we don't envy you him." In far-off Ferney, Voltaire 
read the Elements of Criticism, and was mighty wroth 
over some cutting remarks on the Henriade. He sne- 
ered at those rules of taste from the far north " By Lord 
Mackames, a Justice of the Peace in Scotland." You 
suspect that " master of scoffing " had spelt name and 
office right enough had he been so minded. Kames bid 
farewell to his colleagues in December 1 782 with, if the 

14 



PARLIAMENT HOUSE (Sf LAWYERS 

story be right, aquaintly coarse expression. He died 
eight days after in a worthier frame of mind — he wrote 
and studied to his last hour. " What," he said, " am I 
to sit idle with my tongue in my cheek till death comes 
for me ? " He expressed a stern satisfaction that he was 
not to survive his mental powers, and he wished to be 
away. He was curious as to the next world, and the 
tasks that he would have yet to do. There is some- 
thing heroic about this strange old man. 

We comealittle later down, and in Braxfield we are 
in a narrower field, more local, more restricted, pure- 
ly legal. Such as survive of the Braxfield stories are 
excellent. The locus dassicus for the men of that time 
is Lord (Zoz\s}o\xxx\^ Memorials. Cockburn,as wehave 
yet to see, was himself a wit of the first water, and the 
anecdotes lost nothing by the telling. Braxfield was 
brutal and vernacular. One of" The Fifteen " had ram- 
bled on to little purpose, concluding, " Such is my opin- 
ion." " Fc'^r opeenion," was Braxfield's.s-^/Zc'^'^r^ bitter 
comment, better and briefer even than the hit of the 
English judge at his brother," what he calls his mind." 
Two noted advocates (Charles Hay, afterwards Lord 
Newton, was one of them) were pleading before him 
— they had tarried at the wine cup the previous night, 
and they showed it. Braxfield gave them but little 
rope. " Ye may just pack up your papers and gang 
hame ; the tane o' ye's riftin' punch and the ither 
belchin'claret"(aquaintand subtle distinction !) "and 
there'll be nae guid got out o' ye the day." As Lord 
Justice-Clerk, Braxfieldwas supreme criminal judge ; 
his maxims were thoroughgoing. " Hang a thief when 
he is young, and he'll no' steal when he is auld." He 
15 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

said of the political reformers : " They would a' be 
muckle the better o' being hangit," which is probably 
the truer form of his alleged address to a prisoner : 
" Ye're a vera clever chiel, man, but ye wad be nane 
the waur o' a hanging." " The mob would be the 
better for losing a little blood." But his most famous 
remark, or rather aside, was at the trial of the reformer 
Gerrald. The prisoner had urged that the Author of 
Christianity himselfwas a reformer. "Muckle He made 
o' that," growled Braxfield, " He was hangit." I sus- 
pect this was an after-dinner story, at any rate it is 
not in the report ; but how could it be ? It is really 
a philosophic argument in the form of a blasphemous 
jest. He had not always his own way with the re- 
formers. He asked Margarot if he wished a counsel 
to defend him. " No, I only wish an interpreterto make 
me understand what your Lordship says." The prison- 
er was convicted and, as Braxfield sentenced him to 
fourteen years' transportation, he may have reflected, 
that he had secured the last and most emphatic word. 
Margarot had defended himself very badly, but as 
conviction was a practical certainty it made no differ- 
ence. Of Braxfield's private life there are various 
stories, which you can accept or not as you please, for 
such things you cannot prove or disprove. His butler 
gave him notice, he could not stand Mrs. Macqueen's 
temper; itwas almost playinguptohis master. "Man, 
ye've little to complain o' ; ye may be thankfu' ye're 
no married upon her." As we all know, R. L. Steven- 
son professedly drew his Weir of Hermiston from this 
original. One of the stories he tells is how Mrs. Weir 
praised an incompetent cook for her Christian char- 

i6 




i.ni.i iVl'--:'K(Uir^t at"terSirH<" 



PARLIAMENT HOUSE^'LAWYERS 

acter, when her husband burst out, " I want Christian 
broth ! Get me a lass that can plain-boil a potato, if 
she was a whiire off the streets," That story is more 
in the true Braxfield mannerthan any ofthe authentic 
utterances recorded ofthe judge himself, but now we 
look at Braxfield through Stevenson's spectacles. To 
this strong judge succeeded Sir David Rae,Lord Esk- 
grove. The anecdotes about him are really farcical. He 
was grotesque, and though alleged very learned was 
certainly very silly, but there was something irresist- 
ibly comical about his silliness. Bell initiated a care- 
ful series of law reports in his time. " He taks doun 
ma very words," said the judge in well-founded alarm. 
Here is his exhortation to a female witness: "Lift up 
your veil, throw off all modesty and look me in the 
face"; and here his formula in sentencing a prisoner to 
death : *' Whatever your religi-ous persua-sion may 
be, or even if, as I suppose, you be of no persua- 
sion at all, there are plenty of rever-end gentlemen 
who will be most happy for to show you the way to 
yeternal life." Or best of all, in sentencingcertain ras- 
cals who had broken into Sir James Colquhoun's house 
at LusSjhe elaborately explained theircrimes; assault, 
robbery and hamesucken, of which last he gave them 
the etymology ; and then came this climax — " All 
this you did ; and God preserve us ! joost when they 
were sitten doon to their denner." 

The two most remarkable figures at the Scots bar 
in their own or any time were the Hon, Henry Erskine 
and John Clerk, afterwards Lord Eldin, Erskine was 
a consistent whig, and, though twice Lord Advocate, 
was never raised to the bench; yet he was the leading 
17 B 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

practising lawyer of his time, and the records of him 
that remain showhim worthy of his reputation. He was 
Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, but he presided at 
a public meetingtoprotestagainstthe war, and on the 
1 2th January 1796 was turned out of office by a con- 
siderable majority. A personal friend of Erskine, and 
supposed to be of his party, yielded to the storm and 
voted against him. The clock just then struck three. 
" Ah," murmured John Clerk, in an intense whisper 
whichechoed through the quiet room, "when the cock 
crew thrice Peter denied his Master." But most Ers- 
kine stories are of a lighter touch. When Bos well trot- 
ted with Johnson round Edinburgh, theymetErskine. 
He was too independent to adulate thesage, but before 
he passed on with a bow, he shoved a shilling into the 
astonished Boswell's hand, " for a sight of your bear," 
he whispered, George III. at Windsor once bluntly 
told him, that his income was small compared with 
that of his brother, the Lord Chancellor. " Ah, your 
Majesty," said the wit, " he plays at the guinea table, 
and I only at the shilling one." In a brief interval of 
office he succeeded Henry Dundas, afterwards Lord 
Melville. He told Dundas he was about to order the 
silk gown. " For all the time you may want it," said the 
other, " you had better borrow mine," " No doubt," said 
Harry, "your gown is made to fit any party, but it will 
never be said of Henry Erskine that he put on the 
abandoned habitsofhispredecessor." Buthehad soon 
to go, and this time Hay Campbell, afterwards Lord 
President,had the post,and again the gown wastossed 
aboutin verbal pleasantries. "You must take nothing 
off it, for I will soon need it again," said the outgoer. 

18 



PARLIAMENT HOUSE & LAWYERS 

" It will be bare enough, Henry, before you get it," 
was the neat reply. Rather tall, a handsome man, a 
powerful voice, a graceful manner, and more than all, 
a kindly, courteous gentleman, what figure so well 
known on that ancient Edinburgh street, walking or 
driving his conspicuous yellow chariot with its black 
horses? Everybody loved and praised Harry Erskine, 
friends and foes, rich and poor alike. You remember 
Burns's tribute: "Collected, Harry stood awee." Even 
the bench listened with delight. " I shall be brief, my 
Lords," he once began. " Hoots, man, Harry, dinna be 
brief — dinna be brief,"saidan all too complacent sena- 
tor — a compliment surelyunique in theannalsof legal 
oratory. And if this be unique, almost as rare was the 
tribute of a humble nobody to his generous courage. 
" There's no a puir man in a' Scotland need to want 
a friend or fear an enemy, sae longas Harry Erskine's 
to the fore." Not every judge was well disposed to 
the genial advocate. Commissary Balfour was a pom- 
pous ofificial who spoke always ore rotundo : he had oc- 
casion to examine Erskine one day in his court, he 
did so with more than his usual verbosity. Erskine in 
his answers parodied the style of the questions to the 
great amusement of the audience ; the commissary 
was beside himself with anger. "The intimacy of the 
friend," he thundered," must yield to the severity of 
the judge. Macer, forthwith conduct Mr. Erskine to 
the Tolbooth." " Hoots ! Mr. Balfour," was the crush- 
ing retort of the macer. On another occasion the 
same judge said with great pomposity that he had 
tripped over a stile on his brother's property and 
hurt himself. " Had it been your own style," said 
19 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

Erskine, "you certainly would have broken your 
neck." 

Alas! Harry was an incorrigible punster. When urg- 
ed that it was the lowest form of wit, he had the ready 
retort that therefore it must be the foundation of all 
other kinds. Yet, frankly, someofthosepuns areatroci- 
ous, and even a century's keeping in Kay and other 
records has not made them passable. Gross and palp- 
able, they were yet too subtle for one senator. Lord 
Balmuto, or tradition does him wrong, received them 
with perplexed air and forthwith took them toy3w>«;«- 
dum. Hours, oras some aver, daysafter, abroad smile 
relieved those heavy features. " I hae ye noo, Harry, 
I hae ye noo," he gleefully shouted ; he had seen the 
joke! All were not so dull. A friend pretended to be 
in fits of laughter. "Only one of your jokes, Harry," 
hesaid. "Where did you get it?" said the wit. "Oh, 
I have just bought 'The New Complete Jester, or 
every man his own Harry Erskine.'" The other look- 
ed grave. He felt that pleasantries of the place or the 
moment might not wear well in print. They don't,and 
I refrain for the present from further record. When 
Lord President Blair died suddenly on 27th Nov- 
ember 181 1, a meeting of the Faculty of Advocates 
was hastily called. Blair was an ideal judge, learned, 
patient,dignified, courteous. Heisthe subject of one of 
those wonderful Raeburn portraits (it hangs in the 
library of the Writers to the Signet), and as you gaze 
you understand how those who knew him felt when 
they heard that he was gone forever. Erskine,as Dean, 
rose to propose a resolution, but for once the eloquent 
tongue was mute : after some broken sentences he sat 



PARLIAMENT HOUSE(^LAWYERS 

down, but his hearers understood and judged it "as 
good a speech as he ever made." It was his last. He 
was neither made Lord President nor Lord Justice- 
Clerk, though both offices were open. He did not 
murmur or show ill-feeling, but withdrew to the little 
estate of Almondell, where he spent six happy and 
contented years ere the end. 

Clerk was another type of man. In his last years 
Carlyle, then in his early career, noted that " grim 
strong countenance, with its black, far projecting 
brows." He fought his way slowly into fame. His 
father had half humorously complained, " I remem- 
ber the time when people seeing John limping on the 
street were told, that's the son of Clerk of Eldin; but 
now I hear them saying, ' What auld grey-headed 
man is that? ' and the answer is, 'That is the father 
of John Clerk.' " He was a plain man, badly dressed, 
with a lame leg. "There goes Johnny Clerk, the lame 
lawyer." "No, madam," said Clerk, "the lame 7Han,not 
the lame lawyer!' Cockburn says that he gave his 
client his temper, his perspiration, his nights, his reas- 
on, his whole body and soul, and very often the whole 
fee to boot. He was known for his incessant quar- 
rels with the bench, and yet his practice was enor- 
mous. He lavished his fees on anything from bric-a- 
brac to charity,and died almost a poor man. In con- 
sultation at Picardy Place he sat in a room crowded 
with curiosities, himself the oddest figure of all, his 
lame foot resting on a stool, a huge cat perched at 
ease on his shoulder. When the oracle spoke, it was 
in a few weighty Scots words, that went right to the 
root of the matter, and admitted neither continuation 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

nor reply. His Scots was the powerful direct Scots 
of the able, highly-educated man, a speech faded 
now from human memory. Perhaps Clerk was/r/;?- 
ceps but wot facile, for there was Braxfield to reckon 
with. On one famous occasion,towit,the trial of Dea- 
con Brodie, they went at it, hammer and tongs, and 
Clerk more than held his own, though Braxfield as 
usual got the verdict. They took Clerk to the bench 
as Lord Eldin, when he was sixty-five, which is not 
very old for a judge. But perhaps he was worn out 
by his life of incessant strife, or perhaps he had not 
the judicial temperament. At any rate his record is as 
an advocate, and not as a senator. He had also some 
renown as a toper. There is a ridiculous story of his 
inquiring early one morning, as he staggered along 
the street, "Where is John Clerk's house?" of a ser- 
vant girl, a-"cawming" her doorstep betimes. "Why, 
yoii XQ]o\m. Clerk," said the astonished lass. "Yes, yes, 
but it's his house I want," was the strange answer. I 
have neither space nor inclination to repeat well- 
known stories of judicial topers. How this one was 
seen by his friend coming from his house at what seem- 
ed an early hour. "Done with dinner already?" que- 
ried the one. "Ay, but we sat down yesterday," re- 
torted the other. How this luminary awakened in a 
cellar amongbags of soot,and thatother in the guard- 
house; how this set drank the whole night, claret, it 
is true, and sat bravely on the bench the whole of 
next day ; how most could not leave the bottle alone 
even there; and biscuits and wine as regularly attend- 
ed the judges on the bench as did their clerks and 
macers. The pick of this form is Lord Hermand's 

22 



PARLIAMENT HOUSE Gf LAWYERS 

reply to the exculpatory plea of intoxication : " Good 
Gad, my Laards, if he did this when he was drunk, 
what would he not do when he's sober? " but imag- 
ination boggles at it all, and I pass to a more decor- 
ous generation. 

Thenamesoftwodistinguished men serve tobridge 
the two periods. The early days of Jeffrey and Cock- 
burn have a delightful flavour of old Edinburgh. The 
last years are within living memory. Jeffrey's accent 
was peculiar. It was rather the mode in old Edin- 
burgh to despise the south, the last kick, as it were, at 
the "auld enemy"; Jeffrey declared, "The only part 
of a Scotsman I mean to abandon is the language, 
andlanguageisall lexpecttolearn in England." The 
authorities affirm his linguistic experience unfortun- 
ate. Lord Holland said that "though he had lost the 
broad Scots at Oxford, he had only gained the nar- 
row English." Braxfield put it briefer and stronger. 
" He had clean tint his Scots,and found nae English." 
Thus his accent was emphatically his own ; he spoke 
with great rapidity, with great distinctness. In an 
action for libel, the object of his rhetoric was in per- 
plexed astonishment at the endless flow of vitupera- 
tion. " He has spoken the whole English language 
thrice over in two hours." This eloquence was incon- 
venient in a judge. He forgot Bacon's rule against 
anticipating counsel. Lord Moncreiff wittily said of 
him, that the usual introductory phrase " the Lord 
Ordinary having heard parties' procurators " ought 
to be, in his judgment, " parties' procurators having 
heard the Lord Ordinary." Jeffrey, on the otherhand, 
called Moncreiff " the whole duty of man," from his 
23 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

conscientious zeal. All the same, Jeffrey was an able 
and useful judge, though his renown is greater as ad- 
vocate and editor. Even he, though justly consider- 
ate, did not quite free himself from the traditions of 
his youth. He " kept a prisoner waiting twenty min- 
utes after the jury returned from the consideration of 
their verdict, whilst he and a lady who had been ac- 
commodated with a seat on the bench discussed toge- 
ther a glass of sherry." Cockburn, his friend and biog- 
rapher, the keenest of wits, and a patron of progress, 
stuck to the accent. "When I was a boy no English- 
man could have addressed the Edinburgh populace 
without making them stare and probably laugh; we 
looked upon an English boy at the High School as a 
ludicrous and incomprehensible monster:" and then 
he goes on to say that Burns is already a sealed 
book, and he would have it taught in the school as a 
classic. " In losing it we lose ourselves," says the old 
judge emphatically. He writes this in 1844, nearly 
seventy years ago. We do not teach the only Robin 
in the school. Looked at from the dead-level of to- 
day his time seems picturesque and romantic : were 
he tocome here again he would have some very point- 
ed utterances for us and our ways, for he was given to 
pointed sayings. Forinstance," Edinburgh is as quiet 
as the grave, or even Peebles." A tedious counsel had 
bored him out of all reason. " He has taken up far too 
much of your Lordship's time," sympathised a friend. 
"Time," said Cockburn with bitter emphasis, "Time ! 
long ago he has exhaustit Time, and has encrotch'd 
upon — Eternity." A touch of Scots adds force to such 
remarks. This is a good example. 

24 



PARLIAMENT HOUSE.^ LAWYERS 

One day the judge, whilst rummaging in an old 
book shop, discovered some penny treasure, but he 
found himself without the penny ! He looked up and 
there was the clerk of court staring at him through 
the window. "Lend meabawbee,"hescreamed eager- 
ly. He got the loan, and in the midst of a judgment 
of the full court he recollected his debt ; he scrambled 
across the intervening senators, and pushed the coin 
over : " There's your bawbee, Maister M., with many 
thanks." 

At one time the possession of the correct " burr" 
was a positive hold on the nation. Lord Melville, the 
friend and colleague of Pitt, ruled Scotland under 
what was called the Dundas despotism for thirty 
years. He filled all the places from his own side, for 
such is the method of party government, and he can 
scarce be blamed, yet his rule was protracted and en- 
dured, because he had something more than brute 
force behind him. For one thing, he spoke a broad 
dialect, and so came home to the very hearts of his 
countrymen. When he visited Scotland he went climb- 
ing the interminable High Street stairs, visiting 
poor old ladies that he had known in the days of his 
youth. Those returns of famous Scotsmen have fur- 
nished a host of anecdotes. I will only give one for 
its dramatic contrasts. Wedderburn was not thought 
a tender-hearted or high-principled man, yet when he 
returned old, ill and famous he was carried in a sedan 
chair to a dingy nook in old Edinburgh, the haunt 
of early years, and there he picked out some holes 
in the paved court that he had used in his childish 
sports, and was moved well-nigh to tears. He first 
25 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

left Edinburgh in quite a different mood. He began 
as a Scots advocate, and one day was reproved by 
Lockhart (afterwards Lord Covington), the leader of 
the bar, for some pert remark. A terrible row ensued, 
at which the President confessed "he felt his flesh 
creep on his bones." It was Wedderburn's Sturm 
und Drang period. He had all the presumption of 
eager and gifted youth, he tore the gown from his 
back declaring he would never wear it again in that 
court. We know that he was presently off by the mail 
coach for London, where he began to climb, climb, 
climb,till he became the first Scots Lord High Chan- 
cellor of Great Britain. 

And now a word as to modern times. One or two 
names call for notice. A. S. Logan, Sheriff Logan, 
as he was popularly called, died early in 1862, and 
with him, it was said, disappeared the only man able 
in wit and laughter to rival the giants of an earlier 
epoch. He still remains the centre of a mass of an- 
ecdote, much of it apocryphal. His enemies sneer- 
ed at him as a laboured wit, and averred a single joke 
cost him a solitary walk round the Queen's Drive. 
Once when pleading for a widow he spoke eloquently 
of the cruelty of the relative whom she was suing. 
The judge suggested a compromise. " Feel the pulse 
of the other side, Mr. Logan," said he, humorously. 
" Oh, my Lord," was the answer, " there can be no 
pulse where there is no heart." This seems to me an 
example of the best form of legal witticism, it is an 
argument conveyed as a jest. Of his contemporary 
Robert Thomson (1790-1857), Sheriff of Caithness, 
there are some droll memories. Here is one. He was 

26 



PARLIAMENTHOUSEGf LAWYERS 

a constant though a bad rider, and as a bad rider will, 
he fell from his horse. Even in falling practice makes 
perfect. The worthy sheriff did not fall on his head 
— very much the opposite, in fact. As he remained 
sitting on the ground, a witness of the scene asked if 
he had sustained any injury. " Injury ! " was the an- 
swer; " no injury at all I assure you ! Indeed, sir, quite 
the reverse, quite the reverse." Inglis, like Blair, im- 
pressed his contemporaries as a great judge; how far 
the reputation will subsist one need not discuss, nor 
need we complain that the stories about him are rath- 
er tame. This may be given. Once he ridiculed with 
evident sinceritythe argumentof an oppositecounsel, 
when that one retorted by producingan opinion which 
Inglis had written in that very case, and which the 
other had in fact paraphrased. Inglis looked at it. 
" I see, my lord, that this opinion is dated from Blair 
Athol,and anybody that chooses to follow me to Blair 
Athol for an opinion deserves what he gets." The 
moral apparently is, don't disturb a lawyer in his va- 
cation, when he is away from his books and is " off 
the fang," as the Scots phrase has it. But this is a 
confession of weakness, and is only passable as a way 
of escaping from a rather awkward position. In the 
same case counsel proceeded to read a letter, and prob- 
ably had not the presence of mind to stop where he 
ought. It was from the country to the town agent, 
and discussed the merits of various pleaders with the 

utmost frankness,and then, "You may getold for 

half the money, but for God's sake don't take him at 
any price." In a limited society like the Parliament 
House, such a letter has an effect like the bursting 
27 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

of a bombshell, and I note the incident, though the 
humour be accidental. This other has a truer tang 
of the place. No prisoner goes undefended at the 
High Court ; young counsel perform the duty with- 
out fee or reward. The system has called forth the 
admiration of the greedier Southern, though an Eng- 
lish judge has declared that the worst service you can 
do your criminal is to assign him an inexperienced 
counsel. One Scots convict, at least, agreed. He had 
been accused and thus defended and convicted. As 
he was being removed, he shook his fist in the face 
of his advocate : " Its a' through you, you d — d ass." 
The epithet was never forgotten. The unfortunate 
orator was known ever afterwards as the " d — d ass." 
Sir George Deas was the last judge who talked any- 
thing like broad Scots on the bench. Once he and 
Inglis took different sides on a point of law which 
was being argued before them. Counsel urged that 
Inglis's opinion was contrary to a previous decis- 
ion of his own. " I did not mean," said the Presi- 
dent, " that the words should be taken in the sense 
in which you are now taking them." " Ah," said Lord 
Deas, "your lordship sails vera near the wind there." 
This is quite in the early manner; Kames might have 
said it to Monboddo. 



CHAPTER TWO 
THE CHURCH 



CHAPTER TWO THE CHURCH 

THERE ARE MANY PICTURESQUE INCID- 
ents in the history of the old Scots Church in Edin- 
burgh ; chief of them are the legends that cling round 
the memory of St. Margaret. Her husband, Malcolm 
Canmore, could not himself read, but he took up the 
pious missals in which his wife delighted and kissed 
them in a passion of homage and devotion. There 
is the dramatic account of her last days, when the 
news was brought her of the defeat and death of her 
husband and son at Alnwick, and she expired hold- 
ing the black rood of Scotland in her hand, whilst the 
wild yells of Donald Bane's kerns rent the air, as they 
pressed roundthecastleto destroy herandhers. Then 
follows the story of the removal of her body to Dun- 
fermline in that miraculous mist in which modern 
criticism, has seen nothing but an easterly haar. Then 
we have her son KingDavid's hunting in wild Drum- 
sheugh forest on Holy-rood day, and the beast that 
nearly killed him, his miraculous preservation, and the 
legend of the foundation of Holyrood. In the dim 
centuries that slipped away there was much else of 
quaint and homely and amusing and interesting in 
mediaeval church life in Edinburgh, but the monkish 
chroniclers never thought it worth the telling, and it 
has long vanished beyond recall. This one story is a 
gem of its kind. Scott, who never allowed such fruit 
to go ungathered, has made it well known. It is one 
of the incidents in the fight between the Douglases 
and the Hamiltons at Edinburgh on 30th April 1 520, 
known to alltimeas Cleanse the Causeway, hQca.u5ei\\Q 
Hamiltons were swept fromthe streets. Beaton, Arch- 
31 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

bishop of Glasgow, was a supporter of Arran and the 
Hamiltons, who proposed to attack the Douglases 
and seize Angus, their leader. Angus sent his uncle, 
Gawin Douglas, Bishop of Dunkeld, whose " meek and 
thoughtful eye " Scott has commemorated in one of 
his best known lines, to remonstrate with his fellow- 
prelate. He found him sitting in episcopal state, and 
who was to tell that this was but the husk of a coat of 
mail? His words were honied, but Gawin let it be seen 
that he was far from convinced; whereat the other in 
a fit of righteous indignation protested on his con- 
science that he was innocent of evil intent, and for 
emphasis he lustily smote his reverend breast, too 
lustily, alas ! for the armour rang under the blow. " I 
perceive, my lord, your conscience clatters," was 
Gawin's quick comment, to appreciate whichyou must 
remember that "clatter" signifies in Scots to tell tales 
as well as to rattle. Old Scotland was chary of its 
speech, being given rather to deeds than words, but 
it had a few like gems. Was it not another Doug- 
las who said that he loved better to hear the lark 
sing than the mouse cheep ? Or one might quote that 
delightful "I'll mak' siccar" of Kirkpatrick in the 
matter of the slaughter of the Red Comyn at Dum- 
fries in 1306; but this is a little away from our sub- 
ject. 

At the Reformation, for good or for ill,thewombof 
time brought forth a form of faith distinctively Scots. 
Here, at any rate, we have Knox's History of the Re- 
formation of Religion within the Realme of Scotland 
to borrow from. It is usually the writer, not the rea<}^r, 
who consults such books, yet Knox was a master of 

32 



THE CHURCH IN EDINBURGH 

the picturesque and the graphic. He was great in 
scornful humour ; now and again he has almost a 
Rabelaisian touch. Take, for instance, his account of 
the riot on St. Giles' Day, the ist September 1558. For 
centuries an image of St. Giles was carried through 
the streets of Edinburgh and adored by succeeding 
generations of the faithful, but when the fierce Edin- 
burgh mob had the vigour of the new faith to direct 
and stimulate their old-time recklessness, trouble 
speedily ensued. The huge idol was raped from the 
hands of its keepers and ducked in the Nor' Loch. 
This was a punishment peculiarly reserved for evil 
livers, and the crowd found a bitter pleasure in the 
insult. Then there was a bonfire in the High Street 
in which the great image vanished for ever amid a 
general saturnalia of good and evil passions. 

The old church fell swiftly and surely, but some 
stubborn Scots were also on that side, and Mary of 
Guise, widow of James V. and Queen Regent, was a 
foe to be reckoned with. She had the preachers up be- 
fore her (Knox reproduces her broken Scots with quite 
comic effect), but nothing came of the matter. The 
procession did not cease at once with the destruction 
of the image. In 1558a" marmouset idole was bor- 
rowed fra the Greyfreires," so Knox tells us, and he 
adds with a genuine satirical touch, "A silver peise 
of James Carmichaell was laid in pledge" — evident- 
ly the priests could not trust one another, so he sug- 
gests. The image was nailed down upon a litter and 
the procession began. " Thare assembled Preastis, 
Frerris, Chamonis and rottin Papistes with tabornes 
and trumpettis, banneris, and bage-pypes, and who 
33 c 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

was thare to led the ring but the Queen Regent hir 
self with all hir schavelings for honor of that feast." 
The thing went orderly enough as long as Mary was 
present, but she had an appointment to dinner, in a 
burgher's house betwixt " the Bowes," and when she 
left the fun began. Shouts of " Down with the idol ! 
Down with it!" rent the air, and down it went. "Some 
brag maid the Preastis patrons at the first, but when 
thei saw the febilness of thare god (for one took him by 
the heillis, and dadding his head to the calsey, left 
Dagon without head or hands, and said : ' Fie upon 
thee, thow young Sanct Geile, thy father wold half 
tary ad four such ') this considered (we say) the Preastis 
and Freiris fled faster than thei did at Pynckey 
Clewcht. Thare might have bein sein so suddane a 
fray as seildome has been sein amonges that sorte of 
men within this realme, for down goes the croses, of 
goes the surpleise, round cappes cornar with the 
crounes. The Gray Freiris gapped, the Black Freiris 
blew, the Preastis panted and fled, and happy was he 
that first gate the house, forsuch anesuddan fraycame 
never amonges the generation of Antichrist within 
this realme befoir. By chance thare lay upoun a stare 
a meary Englissman, and seeing the discomfiture to 
be without blood, thought he wold add some meary- 
nes to the mater, and so cryed he ower a stayr and 
said : ' Fy upoun you, hoorsones, why have ye brokin 
ordour? Down the street ye passed in array and with 
great myrthe,whyflieye,vilanes, now without ordour? 
Turne and stryk everie one a strok for the honour 
of his God. Fy, cowardis, fy, ye shall never be judged 
worthy of your wages agane !' But exhortations war 

34 



THE CHURCH IN EDINBURGH 

then unprofitable, for after that Bell had brokin his 
neck thare was no comfort to his confused army." 
I pass over Knox's interviews with Mary, well known 
and for ever memorable, for they express the colli- 
sion of the deepest passions of human nature set in 
romantic and exciting surroundings ; but one little 
incident is here within my scope. It was the fourth 
interview, when Mary fairly broke down. She weptso 
that Knox, with what seems to us at any rate ungen- 
erous and cruel glee, notes, " skarslie could Marnock, 
hir secreat chalmerboy gett neapkynes to hold hys 
eyes dry for the tearis : and the owling besydes wo- 
manlie weaping, stayed hir speiche." Then he is 
bidden to withdraw to the outer chamber and wait 
her Majesty's pleasure. No one will speak to him, ex- 
cept the Lord Ochiltree, and he is there an hour. The 
Queen's Maries and the other court ladies are sit- 
ting in all their gorgeous apparel talking, laughing, 
singing, flirting, what not ? and all at once a strange 
stern figure, the representative of everything that 
wasnew and hostile, addresses them, nay,unbends as 
he does so, for he merrily said: "O fayre Ladyes,how 
pleasing war this lyeff of yourisyf itshould ever abyd, 
and then in the end that we myght passe to heavin 
with all this gay gear. But fye upoun that knave 
Death, that will come whither we will or not ! And 
when he hes laid on his ariest, the foull worms wil be 
busye with this flesche, be it never so fayr and so ten- 
der ; and the seally soull, I fear, shal be so feable that 
it can neather cary with it gold, garnassing, targatting, 
pearle, nor pretious stanes." 

Were they awed, frightened, angry, scornful, con- 
35 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

temptuous? Who can tell ? Knox takes care that no- 
body has the say but himself. You may believe him 
honest — but impartial ! We have no account on the 
other side. Mary did not write memoirs ; if she had, 
it is just possible that Knox had therein occupied the 
smallest possible place, and the beautiful Queen's 
Maries vanished even as smoke. There were writers 
on the otherside, but they mostly invented or retailed 
stupid vulgar calumnies. We have one picture by 
Nicol Burne — not without point — of Knox and his 
second wife, Margaret Stuart, the daughter of Lord 
Ochiltree and of the royal blood, whom he married 
when he was sixty and she was sixteen . 1 1 tells how he 
went a- wooing "with ane great court on ane trim geld- 
ing nocht lyke aneprophet orane auld decrepit priest 
ashe was,bot lyke ashe had beneaneofthe blud royal 
with his bendis of taffetie feschnit with golden ringis 
and precious stanes." 

All that Knox did was characteristic. This, how- 
ever, is amusing. On Sunday 19th August 1565, a 
month after his marriage to Mary, Darnley attended 
church at St. Giles'. Knox was, as usual, the preacher. 
He made pointed references to Ahab and Jezebel, 
and indulged in a piquant commentary upon pass- 
ing events. The situation must have had in it, for 
him, something fascinating. There was the unwilling 
and enraged Darnley, and the excited and gratified 
congregation. Knox improved the occasion to the 
very utmost. He preached an hour beyond the or- 
dinary time. Perhaps that additional hour was his 
chief offence in Darnley's eyes. He " was so moved 
at this sermon and being troubled with great fury he 

36 



J 




REV. JAMES GUTHRIE 

From an old Engraving 



THE CHURCH IN EDINBURGH 

passed in the afternoon to the Hawking." You ex- 
cuse the poor foolish boy ! 

I hurry over the other picturesque incidents of the 
man and the time ; the last sermon with a voice that 
once shook the mighty church, nowscarce heard in the 
immediatecircle; the movingaccount of his last days; 
the elegy of Morton, or the brief epitaph that Morton 
set over his grave. He was scarce in accord even with 
his own age ; his best schemes were sneered at as de- 
vout imagination. Secretary Maitland's was the one 
tongue whose pungent speech he could nevertolerate 
or forgive,and hehad voiced withbitterirony thereply 
of the nobles to Knox's demand for material help for 
the church. " We mon now forget our selfis and beir 
the barrow to buyld the housses of God." And yet he 
never lost heart. In 1 559, when the affairs of the con- 
gregation were at a low ebb, he spoke words of cour- 
age and conviction. " Yea, whatsoever shall become of 
us and of our mortall carcasses, I dowt not but that 
this caus (in dyspyte of Sathan) shall prevail in the 
realme of Scotland. For as it is the eternall trewth 
of the eternall God, so shall itonesprevaill howsoever 
for a time it be impugned." And so the strong, resol- 
ute man vanishes from the stage of time, a figure as 
important, interesting, and fateful as that of Mary 
herself 

I pass to the annals of the Covenant. It was sign- 
ed on 1st March 1638, in the Grey friars Church. It is 
said, though this has been questioned, that when the 
building could not hold the multitude, copies were 
laid on two flat gravestones which are shown you to- 
day,and all ranks and ages pressed round in the ferv- 
37 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

our of excitement; many added "tilldeath" aftertheir 
names, others drew blood from their bodies wherewith 
to fill their pens. The place was assuredly not chosen 
with a view to effect, yet the theatre had a fitness which 
often marks the sacred spots of Scots history. The 
graveyard was the resting-place of the most famous 
of their ancestors; the Castle, the great centrepiece 
of the national annals, rose in their view. The aged 
Earl of Sutherland signed first, Henderson prayed, 
the Earl of Loudoun spoke tohis fellow-countrymen, 
and Johnston of Warriston read* the scroll, which he 
had done so much to frame. Endless sufferings were 
in store for those who adhered to the national cause. 
After Bothwell Brig in 1679 a number were confined 
in thesouth-west cornerof the churchyard in theopen 
air in the rigour of the Scots climate, and just below 
in theGrassmarketalongsuccession of sufferersglori- 
fied God in the mocking words of their oppressors. 
Strange, gloomy figures those Covenanters appear to 
us, with their narrow views and narrow creeds, lives 
lived under the shadowof the gibbet and the scaffold : 
yet who would deny them the virtues of perfect courage 
and unalterable determination ? Let me gather one 
ortwoanecdotesthatstill,as a garland, encircle "fam- 
ous Guthrie's head," as it is phrased on the Martyrs' 
Monument. Hejourneyed to Edinburgh tosubscribe 
the Covenant, encountering the hangman as he was 
entering in at the West Port ; he accepted the omen 
as a clear intimationof his fate if he signed. And then 
he went and signed ! He was tried before the Scots 
Parliament for treason. By an odd accident he had 
"Bluidy Mackenzie" as one of his defending counsel. 

38 



THE CHURCH IN EDINBURGH 

These ad mired his skill and law,and at the end seemed 
more disturbed at the inevitable result than did the 
condemned man himself. He sufiferedon the ist June 
1 66 1 at the Cross. One lighter touch strikes a strange 
gleam of humour. His physicians had forbidden him 
to eat cheese, but at his last meal he freely partook of 
it. " The Doctors may allow me a little cheese this 
night, for I think there is no fear of the gravel now," he 
said with grim cynicism. He spoke for an hour to a 
surely attentive audience. These were the early days 
of the persecution ; a few years later and the drums 
had drowned his voice. At the last moment hecaused 
the face cloth to be lifted that he might with his very 
last breathdeclarehis adherence to theCovenants: the 
loving nickname of Siccarfoot given him by his own 
party was well deserved ! His head was stuck on the 
Netherbow, his body was carried into St. Giles', where 
it was dressed for the grave by some Presbyterian lad- 
ies who dipped their handkerchiefs in his blood. One 
of the other side condemned this as a piece of sup- 
erstition and idolatry of the Romish church. " No," 
said one of them, " but to hold up the bloody napkin 
to heaven in their addresses that the Lord might re- 
member the innocent blood that was spilt." So Wod- 
row tells the story, and he goes on : "I n the time that the 
body was a-dressing there came in a pleasant young 
gentleman and poured out a bottle of rich oyntment 
on thebody, which filled thewholechurch with anoble 
perfume. One of the ladys says, ' God bless you, sir, 
for this labour of love which you have shown to the 
slain body of a servant of Jesus Christ.' He, without 
speaking to any, giving them a bow, removed, not lov- 
39 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

ing to be discovered." A strangelegend presently went 
the round of Edinburgh and was accepted as certain 
fact by the true-blue party. Commissioner the Earl 
of Middleton, an old enemy of Guthrie's, presided at 
his trial. Afterwards, as his coach was passing under 
the Netherbow arch some drops of blood from the 
severed head fell on the vehicle. All the art of man 
could not wash them out, and a new leather covering 
had to be provided. Guthrie left a little son who ran 
with his fellows about the streets of Edinburgh. He 
would often come back and tell his mother that he 
had been looking at his father's head. This last may 
seem a very trivial anecdote, but to me, at least, it al- 
ways brings home with a certain direct force the hor- 
rors of the time. The years rolled on and brought the 
Revolution of 1 688. A divinity student called Hamil- 
ton took down the head and gave it decent burial. 
Richard Cameron fell desperately fighting on the 
20th July 1680 at Airds Moss, a desolate place near 
Auchinleck. Bruce of Earlshall marched to Edin- 
burgh with Cameron's head and hands in a sack, while 
the prisoners who were taken alive were also brought 
there. At Edinburgh the limbs were put upon a hal- 
bert, and carried to the Council. I must let Patrick 
Walker tell the rest of the story. " Robert Murray 
said, 'There's the Head and Hands that lived praying 
and preaching and died praying and fighting.' The 
Council ordered the Hangman to fix them upon the 
Netherbow Port. Mr. Cameron's father being in the 
Tolbooth of Edinburgh for his Principles, they car- 
ried them to him to add Grief to his Sorrow and en- 
quired if he knew them. He took his son's Head and 

40 




SIR ARCHIBALD JOHNSTON, LORD WARRISTON 
From a Painting by George Jamesone 



THE CHURCH IN EDINBURGH 

Handsand kissed them. 'Theyare my Son's, my dear 
Son's,' and said : ' It is the Lord, good is the Will of the 
Lord who cannot wrong me nor mine, but has made 
Goodness and Mercy to follow us all our Days.' Mr. 
Cameron's Head was fixed upon the Port and his 
Hands close by his Head with his Fingers upward." 

Of Sir Archibald Johnstonof Warriston,Bishop Gil- 
bertBurnet,his relative, says: "Presbytery was to him 
more than all the world." At the Restoration he knew 
his case was hopeless and effected his escape to France, 
but was brought back and suffered at the Cross. You 
would fancy life was so risky and exciting in those 
days that study and meditation were out of the ques- 
tion,but,on the contrary, Warriston was a great stud- 
ent (it was an age of ponderous folios and spiritual 
reflection), could seldom sleep above three hours out 
of thetwenty-four,knewagreat deal of Scots Law, and 
many other things besides ; and with it all he and his 
fellows — Stewart of Goodtrees, for instance — spent 
untold hours in meditation. Once he went tothe fields 
or his garden in the Sheens (now Sciennes) to spend 
a short time in prayer. He so remained from six in the 
morning till six or eight at night, when he was awak- 
ened, as it were, by the bells of the not distant city. 
He thought they were the eight hours bells in the 
morning ; in fact, they were those of the evening. 

Another class of stories deals with the stormy lives 
and unfortunate ends of the persecutors, and there is 
no name among those more prominent than that of 
the Archbishop of St. Andrews, him whom Presby- 
terian Scotland held in horror as Sharp, the Judas, the 
Apostate. Years before his life closed at Magus Muir 
41 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

he went in continual danger; he was believed to be in 
direct league with thedevil. Once he accused a certain 
Janet Douglas before the PrivyCouncilof sorcery and 
witchcraft, and suggested that she should be packed 
off to the King's plantations in the West Indies. 
" My Lord," said Janet, " who was you with in your 
closet on Saturday night last betwixt twelve and one 
o'clock ? " The councillors pricked up their ears in 
delighted anticipation of a peculiarly piquant piece of 
scandalabouta Reverend Father in God. Sharp turn- 
ed all colours and put the question by. The Duke of 
Rothes called Janet aside and, by promise of pardon 
and safety, unloosed Janet's probably not very reluct- 
ant lips. " My lord, it was the muckle black Devil." 
Here is a strange episode of this troubled time. Pat- 
rick Walker in his record of the life and death of Mr. 
Donald Cargill tells of a sect called the sweet singers, 
" from their frequently meeting together and singing 
those tearful Psalms over the mournful case of the 
Church." To many of the persecuted it seemed incred- 
ible that heaven should not declare in some terrible 
manner vengeance on a community that was guilty 
of the blood of the Saints, and as this little band sang 
and mused it seemed ever clearer to them that the 
fate of Sodom and Gomorrah must fall on the wicked 
city of Edinburgh. They needs must flee from the 
wrath to come, and so with one accord "they left their 
Houses, warm soft Beds,covered Tables, some of them 
their Husbands and Children weeping upon them to 
stay with them, some women taking the sucking Chil- 
dren in their arms" (to leave tJiese behind were a 
counsel of perfection too high even for a saint !) " to 

42 



THE CHURCH IN EDINBURGH 

Desert places to be free of all Snares and Sins and com- 
munion with others and mourn for their own sins, the 
Land's Tyranny and Defections, and there be safe 
from the Land's utter ruin and Desolations by Judg- 
ments. Some of them going to Pentland hills with a 
Resolution to sit there to see the smoke and utter ruin 
of the sinful, bloody City of Edinburgh." The heavens 
made no sign ; Edinburgh remained unconsumed. A 
troop of dragoons were sent to seize the sweet singers ; 
the men were put in the Canongate Tolbooth, the 
women into the House of Correction where they were 
soundly scourged. Their zeal thus being quenched 
they were allowed to depart one by one, the matter 
settled. And so let us pass on to a less tragic and 
heroic, a more peaceful and prosaic time. 

After the revolution reaction almost inevitably set 
in. Religious zeal — fanaticism if you will — died rap- 
idly down, and there came in Edinburgh, of all places, 
the reign of the moderates, or as we should now say, 
broad churchmen, learned, witty, not zealous or pas- 
sionate, "the just and tranquil age of Dr. Robertson." 
Principal William Robertson was a type of his class. 
We come across him in the University, for he was Prin- 
cipal, and we meet him again as man of letters, for the 
currentsof our narrativeareof necessity cross-currents. 
Here the Robertson anecdotes are trivial. Young 
Cullen, son of the famous doctor, was the bane of the 
Principal's life; he was an excellent mimic, could not 
merely imitate the reverend figure but could follow 
exactly his train of thought. In 1765, some debate or 
other occupied Robertson in the General Assembly; 
Cullen mimicked the doctor in a few remarks on the 
43 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

occasion to some assembled wits. Presently in walks 
the Principal and makes the very speech, a little aston- 
ished at the unaccountable hilarity which presently 
prevailed. Soon the orator smelt a rat. " I perceive 
somebody has been ploughing with my heifer before 
I came in," so he rather neatly turned the matter off. 
Certain young Englishmen of good family were 
boarded with Robertson : one of them lay in bed recov- 
ering from a youthful escapade, when a familiar step 
approached, for that too could be imitated, and a fam- 
iliar voice read the erring youth a solemn lecture on 
the iniquities of his walk, talk, and conversation. He 
promised amendment and addressed himself again 
to rest, when again the step approached. Again the 
reproving voice was heard. He pulled aside the cur- 
tain and protested that it was too bad to have the 
whole thing twice over — it was Robertson this time, 
however, and not Cullen. The Principal once went to 
the father of this remarkable young man for medical 
advice. He was duly prescribed for, and as he was 
leaving the doctor remarked that he had just been 
giving the same advice for the same complaint to his 
own son . " What," said Robertson, " has the young 
rascal been imitating me here again ? " The young 
rascal lived to sit on the bench as Lord Cullen, a grave 
and courteous but not particularly distinguished sen- 
ator. The Principal was also minister of Old Grey- 
friars'. His colleague here was Dr. John Erskine. 
The evangelical school was not by any means dead 
in Scotland, and Erskine, a man of good family and 
connections, was a devoted adherent. It is pleasant 
to think that strong bonds of friendship united the 

44 



THE CHURCH IN EDINBURGH 

colleagues whose habits of thought were so different. 
You remember the charming account of Erskine in 
Guy Mannering where the colonel goes to hear him 
preach one Sunday. He was noted for extraordinary- 
absence of mind. Once he knocked up against a cow 
in the meadows; in a moment his hat was off his head 
and he humbly begged the lady's pardon. The next 
she he came across was his own wife, " Get off, you 
brute ! " was the result of a conceivable but ludicrous 
confusion of thought. His spouse observed that he 
invariably returned from church without his hand- 
kerchief; she suspected one of the old women who 
sat on the pulpit stairs that they might hear better, 
or from the oddity of the thing, or from some other 
reason, and the handkerchief was firmly sewed on. As 
the doctor mounted the stairs he felt a tug at his 
pocket. " No the day, honest woman, no the day," 
said Erskine gently. Dr. Johnson was intimate with 
Robertson when he was in Edinburgh and was tempt- 
ed to go and hear him preach. He refrained. "He could 
not give a sanction by his presence to a Presbyterian 
Assembly." 

Dr. Hugh Blair ( 1 718-1800), Professor of Rhetoric 
in the University, was another of the eminent moder- 
ates. Dr. Johnson said : " I have read over Dr. Blair's 
first sermon with more than approbation ; to say it is 
good is to say too little." The King and indeed every- 
body else agreed with Johnson, the after time did not, 
and surely no human being now-a-days reads the once 
famous Rhetoric and the once famous Sermons. Blair 
was vain about everything. Finical about his dress, 
he was quite a sight as he walked to service in the 
45 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

High Kirk. " His wig frizzed and powdered so nicely, 
his gown so scrupulously arranged on his shoulders, 
his hands so pure and clean, and everything about 
him in such exquisite taste and neatness." Once he 
had his portrait painted ; he desired a pleasing smile 
to mantle his expressive countenance. The model 
did his best and the artist did his best ; the resulting 
paint was hideous. Blair destroyed the picture in a 
fit of passion. A new one followed, in which less sub- 
lime results were aimed at, and the achievement did 
not sink below the commonplace. An English visitor 
told him in company that his sermons were not popu- 
lar amongst the southern divines : Blair's piteous ex- 
pression was reflected in the faces of those present. 
Because, said the stranger, who was plainly a master 
in compliment, "they are so well known that none 
dare preach them." The flattered Doctor beamed with 
pleasure. Blair's colleague was the Rev. Robert Wal- 
ker, and it was said by the beadle that it took twenty- 
four of Walker's hearers to equal one of Blair's, but 
then the beadlewas measuringeverythingby theheap 
on the plate. An old student of Blair's with Aber- 
deen accent, boundless confidence and nothing else, 
asked to be allowed to preach for him on the depra- 
vity of man. Blair possibly thought that a rough dis- 
course would throw into sharp contrast his polished 
orations ; at any rate he consented, and the most cul- 
tured audience in Ed inburgh were treated to this gem : 
" It is well known that a sou has a' the puddins o' a 
man except ane ; and xitJiat doesna proove that man 
is fa'an there's naething will." 

Dr. Alexander Webster, on the other hand, was of 

46 



THE CHURCH IN EDINBURGH 

the evangelical school, though an odd specimen, since 
he preached and prayed, drank and feasted, with the 
same whole-hearted fervour. The Edinburgh wits 
called him Doctor Magnum Bonum, and swore that 
he had drunk as much claret at the town's expense as 
would float a 74-ton-gun ship. He died somewhat 
suddenly, and just before the end spent one night in 
prayer at the house of Lady Maxwell of Monreith, 
and on the next he supped in the tavern with some 
of his old companions who found him very pleasant. 
He was returning home one night in a very unsteady 
condition. " What would the kirk-session say if they 
saw you noo ? " said a horrified acquaintance. " Deed, 
they wadna believe their een " was the gleeful and 
witty answer. This bibulous divine was the founder of 
the Widows Fund of the Church of Scotland, and you 
must accept him as a strange product of the strange 
conditions of strange old Edinburgh. 

The material prosperity of the Church, such as it 
was, did not meet with universal favour. Lord Auchin- 
leck, Boswell's father, a zealous Presbyterian of the old 
stamp, declared that a poor clergy was ever a pure 
clergy. In former times, he said, they had timmer 
communion cups and silver ministers, but now we 
were getting silver cups and timmer ministers. 

It is alleged of one of the city ministers, though I 
know not of what epoch, that he performed his pas- 
toral ministrations in the most wholesale fashion. 
He would go to the foot of each crowded close in his 
district, raise his gloved right hand and pray unctu- 
ously if vaguely for "all the inhabitants of this close." 

Some divines honestly recognise their own imper- 
47 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

fections. Dr. Robert Henry was minister of the Old 
Kirk : his colleague was Dr. James M'Knight. Both 
were able and even distinguished men, but not as 
preachers. Dr. Henry wittily said, "fortunately they 
were incumbents of the same church, or there would 
be twa toom kirks instead of one." One very wet 
Sunday M'Knight arrived late and drenched. " Oh, 
I wish I was dry, I wish I was dry," he exclaimed ; and 
then after some perfunctory brushing, " Do you think 
I'm dry noo ? " " Never mind. Doctor," said the other 
consolingly, " when ye get to the pulpit you'll be dry 
enough." 

As the last century rolled on the moderate cause 
weakened and the evangelical cause became stronger. 
The Rev. Sir Henry Moncreiff was one of the great 
figures of that movement. Referring to his power in 
the Assembly a country minister said : " It puts you 
in mind of Jupiter among the lesser Gods." Another 
was Dr. Andrew Thomson, minister of St. George's, 
who died in 1831. An easy-going divine once said to 
him that " he wondered he took so much time with his 
discourses; forhimself,many'sthetime he had written 
a sermon and killed a salmon before breakfast." "Sir," 
was the emphatic answer, " I had rather have eaten 
your salmon, than listened to your sermon." 

The evangelical party were much againstpluralities. 
The others upheld them on the ground that only thus 
could the higher intellects of the church be fostered 
and rewarded. Dr. Walker had been presented to Col- 
inton intheteethof much popular opposition. He had 
obtained a professorship at the same time, and this 
was urged in his favour. " Ah," said an old country- 

48 




REV. SIR HENRY MONCRIEFF-WELLWOOD 

From an Engraving after Sir Henry R.icburn, R.A, 



THE CHURCH IN EDINBURGH 

man, " that makes the thing far waur ; he will just make 
a bye job of our souls." 

Dr. Chalmers is the great figure of the Disruption 
controversy, but most of his work lay away from Edin- 
burgh. Well known as he was, there existed a sub- 
merged mass to whom he was but a name. In 1845 he 
began social and evangelical work in the West Port. 
An old woman of the locality, being asked if she went 
to hear any one, said, "Ou ay, there's a body Chalmers 
preaches in the West Port, and I whiles gang to keep 
him in countenance, honest man ! " 

Chalmers was the founder of the Free Church ; its 
great popular preacher for years afterwards was 
Thomas Guthrie. His fame might almost be describ- 
ed as world-wide ; his oratory was marked by a certain 
vivid impressiveness that brought the scenes he de- 
scribed in actual fact beforehis hearers. A naval officer 
hearing him picture the wreck of a vessel, and the 
launching of the lifeboat to save the perishing crew, 
sprang from one of the front seats of the gallery and 
began to tear off his coat that he might rush to render 
aid. He was hardly pulled down by his mother who 
sat next him. Guthrie had other than oratorical gifts, 
he was genial and open-hearted. A servant from the 
country,amazed at the coming and going and the hos- 
pitality of the manse, said to her mistress : " Eh, mem, 
this house is just like a ' public,' only there's nae siller 
comes in !" 

Another leader, second only to Chalmers, was Dr. 
Candlish, much larger in mind than in body. "Ay," 
said an Arran porter to one who was watching the 
Doctor, " tak' a gude look, there's no muckle o' him, 
49 D 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

butthere'sadealin him!" Lord Cockburn's words are 
to the like effect. "It requires the bright eye and the ca- 
pacious brow of Candlish to get the better of thesmall- 
nessof his person, which makes us sometimes wonder 
how it contains its inward fire." The eager spirit of this 
divine chafed and fretted over many matters ; his ora- 
tory aroused a feelingof sympathetic indignation in its 
hearers, afterwards they had some difficultyin finding 
adequate cause for their indignation. When the Prince 
Consort died his sorrowing widow raised a monument 
to him on Deeside, whereon a text from the Apocrypha 
wasinscribed. CandHsh declaimed against the quota- 
tion with all the force of his eloquence. " I say this with 
the deepest sorrow if it is the Queen who is responsible, 
I say it with the deepest indignation whoever else it 
may be." These words bring vividly before us an al- 
most extinct type of thought. And this,again, spoken 
eight days before his death and in mortal sickness, 
has a touch of the age of Knox : " If you were to set 
me up in the pulpit I still could make you all hear on 
the deafest side of your heads." 

Times again change, the leaders ofreligious thought 
in Scotland are again broad church, if I may use a non- 
committal term. They have often moved in advance 
of their flocks. At a meeting in Professor Blackie's 
house in 1882 a number of Liberal divines were pre- 
sent. Among them Dr. Macgregor and Dr. Walter C. 
Smith. They were discussing the personality of the 
Evil One in what seemed to an old lady a very ration- 
alistic spirit. " What," she said in pious horror, "would 
you deprive us of the Devil ? " 

With this trivial anecdote may go that of another 

50 



THE CHURCH IN EDINBURGH 

conservative old woman more than a century earlier. 
The Rev. David Johnson, who died in 1824, was mini- 
ster of North Leith. In his time a new church was 
built, which was crowned with a cross wherein lurked, 
to some, a suggestion of prelacy if not popery. " But 
what are we to do ? " said the minister to a knot of 
objecting pious dames. " Do ! " replied one of them, 
" what wad ye do, but j ust put up the auld cock again !" 
(no doubt the weather-cock). This cock, or one of its 
predecessors, crows in history centuries before. On the 
2 1 st March 1 567 the Castle of Edinburgh was given in 
charge to Cockburn of Skirling. That day there was 
a great storm which, among greater feats, blew the tail 
from the cock on the steeple at Leith. An ancient 
prophecy ran the round of the town as miraculously 

fulfilled : » ^^lyQrl Skirling sail be capitaine 

The Cock sail want his tail." 
Thus the diary of Robert Birrell, at any rate. 

The strictness of old-time Sabbath observance is 
well known. Lord George Campbell, afterwards Duke 
of Argyll, was in command of a corps of Fencibles in 
Edinburgh in the early years of last century. He was 
skilled in whistling. He sat one Sunday morning at 
the open window of his hotel in Princes Street, and 
exercised his favourite art. An old woman passing by 
to church viewed him with holy horror and shook her 
fist at him, " Eh ! ye reprobate ! ye reprobate ! " she 
shouted. 

It were easy to accumulate anecdotes of the church 
officers of Edinburgh. I find space for two. In old 
days Mungo Watson was beadle of Lady Yester's 
Church under Dr. Davidson. His pastime was to 
51 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

mount the pulpit and thunder forth what he believed 
to be a most excellent discourse to an imaginary 
audience. Whilst thus engaged he was surprised by 
Dr. Davidson, who shut him up very quickly: " Come 
down, Mungo, come down, toom barrels mak' most 
sound." Injeems the Dooj'keeper, a Lay Sej^mon, Dr. 
John Brown has drawn a charming picture of the 
officer of his father's churchin Broughton Place. The 
building was crowded, and part of the congregation 
consisted of servant girls, " husseys " as Jeems con- 
temptuously described them. Some were laced to the 
point of suffocation, and were not rarely carried out 
fainting to the vestry. Jeems stood over the patient 
with a sharp knife in hishand. "Will oo rip her up noo?" 
he said as he looked at the young doctor ; the signal 
was given, the knife descended and a cracking as of 
canvas under a gale followed, the girl opened her eyes, 
and closed them again in horror at the sight of the 
ruined finery. But we are chronicling very small beer 
indeed, and here must be an end of these strangely 
assorted scenes and pictures. 



CHAPTER THREE 
THE TOWN'S COLLEGE AND SCHOOLS 



CHAPTER THREE 

TOWN'S COLLEGE AND SCHOOLS 

THE OFFICIAL TITLE OF THE UNIVER- 

sity of Edinburgh is Acadeniia Jacobi Sexti. So " our 
James," as Ben Jonson calls him, gave a name to this 
great seat of learning, and in the form of a charter he 
gave it his blessing, and there he stopped 1 Bishop 
Reid, the last Roman Catholic Bishop of Orkney, left 
eight thousand merks for a college in Edinburgh,and 
though that sum sinks considerably when put into 
current coin of the realm, it is not to be neglected. It 
was obtained and applied, but the real patrons, auth- 
ors, managers and supporters for centuries of the Uni- 
versity was the good town of Edinburgh through its 
Town Council. It was Oure Tounis Colledge. They 
appointed its professors and ruled its destinies until 
almost our own time. The Scottish University Act 
of 1858 greatly lessened, though it by no means de- 
stroyed, their influence. 

In a country so much under ecclesiastical influence 
as Scotland ofthe Reformation, the union between the 
College and the Kirk was close and intimate ; still it 
was a corporation of tradesmen that managed the 
University, and though the professors kicked,thereis 
no doubt they managed it very well. There has ever 
been something homely and unconventional about 
the college. It was opened on the 14th October 1583; 
the students were to wear gowns, they were to speak 
Latin,none was to soil his mouth with common Scots, 
and none was to go to taverns, or (it was later ordain- 
ed) to funerals — a serious form of entertainment for 
which old Scotland evinced a peculiar zest. 
55 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

Ah, those counsels of perfection ! how the years set 
them at naught ! Why they alone of all men in Edin- 
burgh should not go to taverns or funerals was not a 
question wherewith they troubled themselves ; they 
simply went. Gowns they never wore, and though 
half-hearted attempts were now and again made to 
introducethem, these never succeeded. Sir Alexander 
Grant, thelate Principal, tells us that a working man, 
whose son was a student, wrote to him, pointing out 
theadvantage ofgowns in covering up ashabby dress. 
Sir Alexander seemed ratherstruck withthispoint of 
view, though after all, the gown must costsomething, 
which might have been better applied to the cloak. 
The students, as now, lived anywhere. 

The histories give many quaint details as to the 
manners of other days. The classes began at five in 
summer and six in winter; the bursars rung the bell 
and swept the rooms ; the janitor was a student or 
even a graduate. His it was to lock the door at eleven 
at night. The early professors, who did not confine 
themselves to one subject but carried their class right 
through, were called regents. One of them, James 
Reid, had taken up the office in 1603; hewaspopular 
in the council, in the town, and in the whole city, but 
after more than twenty years' service he came to grief 
on aquarrel with the all-powerful Kirk. In 1626, Wil- 
liam Struthers, Moderator of the Presbytery, spoke of 
philosophy as the dish-clout of divinity. At a gradua- 
tion ceremony, Reid quoted Aristippus to the effect 
that he would rather be an unchristian philosopher 
than an unphilosophical divine ! for which innocent 
retort the regent was forced to throw up his office. 

56 




'i'.l R 1 IK !).D., ARCHRISHOF - 

.ivinghy Sir Robert Strange 



TOWN'S COLLEGE AND SCHOOLS 

One wonders what would have happened if Town 
Council and Kirk had come to loggerheads, but they 
never did, and through a college committee and a col- 
lege bailie they directed the affairs of the University. 
Creech, best known to fame as Burns's publisher, and 
the subject of some kindly or some unkindly half- 
humorous verse, was in his time college bailie ; but 
Creech was agreat many things in his time, though the 
world has pretty well forgotten him. The Lord Pro- 
vost was the important figure in University as well as 
City life. In 1665 he was declared by the council 
Rector of the College, yet in the years that followed 
he did nothing in his office. Longafterwards,in 1838, 
there was a trial of students before the Sheriff, for 
the part these had taken in a great snowball bicker 
with the citizens. Witty Patrick Robertson was their 
counsel, and was clever enough to throw a farcical air 
over the whole proceedings. " You are Rector of the 
University, are you not ? " he asked the then Lord 
Provost. "No! I may be, but I am not aware of it," 
was the rather foolish answer. A caricature was im- 
mediately circulated of the man who does not know 
he is Rector ! This office was not the present Lord 
Rectorship, which only dates from the Act of 1858. 
Edinburgh has never been a rich town. In the old 
days, it was as poor as poor might be, and so was its 
college; they had nothing in the way of plate to show 
visitors, or to parade on great occasions. Their only 
exhibits were the college mace and George Buch- 
anan's skull! There was a legend about the mace. In 
1683 the tomb of Bishop Kennedy at St. Andrews 
was opened : it contained five silver maces — quite a 
57 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

providential arrangement, one for each of the Scots 
Universities, and onetospare ! But there was a mace in 
Edinburghbeforethis. We have note of it in i640,and 
in 1 65 1 the Town Council had it on loan for the use of 
the public. In 1660 the macerofthe Parliament needs 
must borrow it till his masters get one of their own. 
There is a quaint, homely touch about this passing on 
of the mace from one body to another. It had been a 
valuable and interesting relic, but in the night between 
29th and 30th October 1787 the library was forced, 
and the mace stolen from the press wherein it lay, 
and was never seen more. Ten guineas reward was 
offered, but in vain. Every one presently suspected 
Deacon Brodie, himself a member of the Council,and 
perhaps the most captivating and romantic burglar 
on record. Ere a year was over, he was lying in the 
Tolbooth a condemned felon, but he uttered no word 
as to the precious bauble. The year after that, very 
shame induced the Council to procure an elegant silver 
mace, with a fine Latin inscription, and the arms of 
James VI., the arms of the City, and the arms of the 
University itself, invented for the special purpose. It 
was just in time to be used on the laying of the found- 
ation-stone of the new university buildings in 1789, 
and it has been used ever since on great occasions 
only. The loan of it is not asked for any more! every 
body corporate now has a mace of its own ! 

The Buchanan skull is still held by the college. That 
eminent scholar died on the 28th September 1 5 82, and 
was buried in the Grey friars Churchyard. John Adam- 
son, PrincipaloftheUniversitybetweeni623and 165 1, 
got the skull by bribing the sexton, and bequeathed 

58 



TOWN'S COLLEGE AND SCHOOLS 

it to the college. The story rather revolts the taste of 
to-day, but grim old Scotland had a strange hanker- 
ing after those elements of mortality. Its remarkable 
thinness was noted, in fact the light could be seen 
through it, and anatomists of later years dwelt on the 
fine breadth of forehead, and remarkable contours. It 
was j udged, moreover, a skull of a Celtic type — Celtic 
was possibly enough Buchanan's race. Long after- 
wards Sir William Hamilton, at the Royal Society in 
Edinburgh, compareditwiththeskull of aMalayrob- 
ber and cut-throat, and showed that, according to the 
principlesof the phrenologists, the Malay had thefiner 
head. This was meant as a reductio ad absiirdum of 
phrenology ,though,afterall,theevidenceofidentifica- 
tioncouldnot be satisfactory. Ifthe sexton consented 
tobe bribed he was not likely, in old Greyfriars,tobeat 
a loss for a skull, but it seems irreverent to pursue the 
subject further. 

Robert Leighton, Principal between 1 65 3 and 1662, 
was afterwards Bishop of Dunblane, and then Arch- 
bishop of Glasgow. In 1672 he was still living in his 
rooms in the college, and was there waited upon one 
day by Chorley,an English student studying divinity 
at Glasgow. He brought the compliments of his col- 
lege and tutor,and invited the prelate to his approach- 
ing laureation. Henextpresentedhimwiththelaurea- 
tion thesis, which was gratefully received, but when 
the visitor produced a pair of "fine fringed gloves" 
" he started back and with all demonstrations of hu- 
mility excused himself as unworthy of such a present. " 
Chorley, however, whilst humble was persistent, and 
though the Archbishop refused again and again and 
59 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

retreated backwards, Chorley followed, and at the end 
fairly pinned Leighton against the wall ! His Grace 
needsmustyield/'butitwas amazing to see with what 
humblegratitude,bowing to thevery ground, this great 
man accepted them." So much for the author of the 
classic Co7nmentary on theist Epistle of St. Peter. Is it 
not a picture of the time when men wereextreme in all 
things, though Leighton alone was extreme inhumil- 
ity ? Was there not (you ask) something ironic in the 
self-depreciation? I do not think so, for you look as 
" through a lattice on the soul " and recognise a s pirit ill 
ateaseinanevil day,onewhomighthaveutteredLord 
Bacon's pathetic comp\a.'intmu/ tM7n incola fuit anima 
mea with far more point and fitness than ever Bacon 
did. 

Of a later Principal, Gilbert Rule ( 1 690-1 70 1 ), aless 
conspicuous but very pleasing memory remains. His 
window was opposite that of Campbell, Professor of 
Divinity. Now Dr. Rule was ever late at his books, 
whilst Campbell was eager over them ere the late 
northern dawn was astir; so the one candle was not 
out before the other was lighted. They were called the 
evening and the morning star. Rule died first, and 
when Campbell missed thefamiliarlight,hesaid, "the 
evening star was now gone down, and the morning 
star would soon disappear," and ere long it was noted 
that both windows were dark. Among his other gifts, 
Gilbert Rule was a powerful preacher. Insomeminis- 
terial wandering itwas his lot topass a night in a soli- 
tary house in a nook of the wild Grampians. At mid- 
night enter a ghost, who would take no denial; Gilbert 
must out through the night till a certain spot was 

60 



TOWN'S COLLEGE AND SCHOOLS 

reached ; then the ghost vanished and the Doctor 
got him back to bed, with, you imagine, chattering 
teeth and dismal foreboding, Nextdaytheground was 
opened, and the skeleton of a murdered man discover- 
ed. Gilbert preached on the following Sunday from 
the parish pulpit, and reasoned so powerfully of judg- 
ment and the wrath to come that an old man got up 
and confessed himself the murderer. In due course he 
was executed and the ghost walked no more. 

WilliamCarstares,Principal between 1 703 and 1 7 1 5 , 
was a great figure in Church and State. " Cardinal" 
Carstares they nicknamed him at Dutch William's 
Court,andboth that astute monarchand Queen Anne, 
Stuart as she was, gave him almost unbounded con- 
fidence. In tact and diplomacy he excelled his con- 
temporaries and in the valuable art of knowing what 
to conceal even when forced to speak. He was put 
to it, for the most famous anecdote about him tells 
of his suffering under the thumbikins in 1684. They 
were applied for an hour with such savage force that 
the King's smith had to go for his tools to reverse 
the screws before it was possible to set free the maimed 
and bruised thumbs. In Carstares' picturethethumbs 
are very prominent, in fact or flattery they show forth 
quite untouched. At the King's special request he tried 
them on the royal digits; His Majesty vowed he had 
confessedanythingtoberidof them. We have a pleas- 
ing picture of an annual fish dinner at Leith whereat 
the Principal was entertained by his colleagues. Cal- 
amy the English nonconformist was a guest, and was 
muchdelighted with the talk and the fare, and especi- 
ally "the freedom and harmony between the Principal 
61 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

and the masters of the college," theyexpressingaven- 
eration for him as a common father, and he a tender- 
ness for them as if they had all been his children. 

Principal Robertson (1762-1793) is still a disting- 
uished figure,but he belongs to Letters in thefirst place, 
and the Church in the second ; yet even here he was 
eminent. A charminganecdote tells how as Principal 
he visited the logic class where John Stevenson, his 
own old teacher, was still prelecting. He addressed 
the students in Latin, urging them to profit, as he hop- 
ed he had himself profited, by the teaching of Steven- 
son, whereat "the aged Professor, unable any longer to 
suppress his emotion, dissolved in tears of grateful af- 
fection, and fell on the neck of his favourite pupil, his 
Principal." 

George Husband Baird (i 793-1 840) was a much 
more commonplace figure. His middle name was 
thought felicitous ; he was husband to the Lord Pro- 
vost's daughter and there seemed no other sufficient 
reason to account for his elevation. This play upon 
names, bythe way, has always been a favourite though 
puerile form of Edinburgh wit. The better part of a 
century afterwards we had one of our little wars on 
the Gold Coast, and some local jester asked for the 
difference between the folk of Ashantee and those of 
Edinburgh. The first, it was said, took their law from 
Coffee and the second their coffee from Law ! The 
Ashantee war of the 'seventies is already rather dim 
and ancient history, but Coffee, it may be remember- 
ed, was the name of their king, and the other term re- 
ferred to a well-known Edinburgh house still to the 
fore. However, we return to our Baird for a moment. 

62 



TOWN'S COLLEGE AND SCHOOLS 

He was Minister of the High Church as well as Princi- 
pal. Discoursing of the illness of George III., he wept 
copiously and unreasonably; "from George Husband 
Baird to George HI. greeting-" said one of his hearers. 
There is a mass of legendary stories about the ordin- 
ary professors, but the figures aredim,and the notes of 
their lives mostly trivial. For instance, there is Dr.John 
Meiklejohn, who was Professor of Church History, 
1739-1781 : "He had a smooth round face, that never 
bore any expression but good-humour and content- 
ment," he droned monotonously through his lectures, 
glad to get away to his glebe at Abercorn, eight miles 
off. He delighted to regale the students at his rural 
manse, and pressed on them the produce of the soil, 
with a heartiness which he never showed in inviting 
their attention to the fathers of the church. " Take 
an Qgg, Mr. Smith," he would genially insist,'^ they are 
my own eggs, for the eggs of Edinburgh are not to 
be depended on." Of like kidney was David Ritchie, 
who was Professor of Logic and Metaphysics and Min- 
ister of St. Andrew's Church, but "was more illustrious 
on the curling pond, than in the Professor's chair." 
But, then, to him in i836succeededSirWilliam Hamil- 
ton, and for twenty years the chair was //^^ philosophi- 
cal chair of Britain. The records of his fame are not 
for this page; his passionate devotion to study, his vast 
learning, are not material for the anecdotist. He was 
fond of long walks with a friend into the surrounding 
country, and in his day it was still very easy to leave 
the town behind you. Though he started with a com- 
panion, he was presently away in advance or on the 
other sideoftheroad, muttering to himself in Greek or 
63 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

Latin or EngHsh.forgetful of that external world which 
occupiedno small place in his philosophy. "Dear me, 
what did you quarrel about?" asked a lady, to his no 
small amusement. The Council did not always select 
the most eminent men. About a century before, in 
1745 to wit, they had preferred for the chair of Moral 
Philosophy William Cleghorn to David Hume. There 
was no other choice,it was said. A Deist might possibly 
become a Christian, but a Jacobite could not become 
a Whig. Ruddiman's amanuensis, Adam Walker, was 
a student at this class, where he had listened to a lec- 
ture on the doctrine of necessity. " Well, does your 
Professor make us free agents or not?" said his em- 
ployer. " He gives us arguments on both sides and 
leaves us to judge," was the reply. " Indeed," was 
Ruddiman's caustic comment, " the fool hath said in 
his heart, there is no God, and the Professor will not 
tell you whether the fool is right or wrong." 

Many of us remember Dunbar's Greek Lexicon, so 
much in use till superseded by Liddell and Scott's. Its 
author was Professor of Greek in the University from 
1 806 to 1852. He fell from a tree, it was said, into the 
Greek chair. In fact, he commenced life as gardener; 
confined by an accident he betook himself to study, 
with highly satisfactory results. His predecessor in 
the chair had been Andrew Dalzel, an important fig- 
ure in his time, perhaps best remembered by the in- 
eptitude of his criticism of Scott, whom he entertain- 
ed unawares in his class. Scott sent him in an essay, 
" cracking up " Ariosto above Homer. Dalzel was nat- 
urally furious : " Dunce he was and dunce he would 
remain." You cannot blame the professor, but dis 

64 




PRINCIPAL WILLIAM CAR STARES 
From the Engraving by Jeens 



TOWN'S COLLEGE AND SCHOOLS 

aliter visum ! Dunbar's successor was John Stuart 
Blackie (1852-1882), one of the best known Edin- 
burgh figures of his time. He had a creed of his own, 
ways of his own, and a humour of his own. Even 
the orthodox loved and tolerated the genial individ- 
ualist who was never malicious. " Blackie's neyther 
orthodox, heterodox, nor any ither dox ; he's juist 
himsel' ! " An ardent body of abstainers under some 
mistaken idea asked him to preside at one of their 
meetings. Hethus addressed them : "I cannot under- 
stand why I am asked to be here, I am not a teeto- 
taler — far from it. If a man asks me to dine with 
him and does not give me a good glass of wine, I say 
he is neither a Christian nor a gentleman. Germans 
drink beer, Englishmen drink wine, ladies tea, and 
fools water." Blackie was an advocate as well as a 
professor. Possibly he had in his mind a certain Act 
of 17 16, to wit, the 3rd of Geo. I. chap. 5, whereby 
a duty was imposed " of two pennies Scots, or one- 
sixth of a penny sterling on every pint of ale and beer 
that shall be vended and sold within the City of Edin- 
burgh." Among the objects to which the duty was 
to be applied was the settling of a salary upon the 
Professor of Law in the University of Edinburgh and 
his successor in office not exceeding;^ioo perannum. 
Here is aportrait by himself which brings vividly back, 
true to the life, that once familiar figure of the Edin- 
burgh pavement: "When I walk along Princes Street 
I gowith a kingly air, myhead erect, my chest expan- 
ded, myhair flowing, myplaid flying, my stick swing- 
ing. Do you know what makes me do that ? Well, I'll 
tell you — ^just con-ceit." Even those who knew him 
65 E 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

not will understand that the Edinburgh ways never 
quite seemed the same when that picturesque figure 
was seen no longer there. And yet the Blackie anec- 
dotesare disappointing. There is a futile story that he 
once put up a notice he would meet his classes at such 
an hour. A student with a very elementary sense of 
humour cut off the c^ and he retorted by deleting the /. 
All this is poor enough. Alas ! he was only of the silver 
or, shall we say, of the iron age of Auld Reekie? 

Aytoun in an address at the graduation of 1863, 
spoke of the professors of his time as the instructors, 
and almost idols, of the rising generation. He him- 
self filled the chair of Rhetoric between 1 845 and 1 865. 
A quaint though scarcely characteristic story is pre- 
served of his early years. One night he was, or was 
believed to be, absent from home, " late at een birling 
the wine." An irate parent stood grimly behind the 
door the while a hesitating hand fumbled at the latch, 
the dim light of morn presently revealed a cloaked 
figure, upon whom swift blows descended without stint 
or measure. It was not young Aytoun at all, but a 
mightySenatorofthe College ofjusticewhohad mis- 
taken the door for his own, which was a little farther 
along the street ! 

One of the idols to whom Aytoun referred was no 
doubt his father-in-law, John Wilson (i 820-1 85 3), the 
well-known Christopher North, described by Sir R. 
Christisonas "thegrandest specimen I haveeverseen 
of the human form, tall, perfectly symmetrical, mass- 
ive and majestic, yet agile." Even in old age he had 
many of his early characteristics. He noted a coal 
carter brutally driving a heavily-laden horse up the 

66 



TOWN'S COLLEGE AND SCHOOLS 

steep streets of Edinburgh; he remonstrated with the 
fellow, who raised his whip in a threatening manner 
as if to strike. The spirit of the old man swelled in 
righteous anger, he tore away the whip as if it had 
been straw, loosened the harness, threw the coals into 
the street, then clutching the whip in one hand and 
leading the horse by the other, he marched through 
Moray Place, to deposit the unfortunate animal in 
more kindly keeping. 

There are stories of the library that merit atten- 
tion. I will give the name of Robert Henderson, ap- 
pointed librarian in 1685, where he so continued till 
1747 — sixty-two years altogether, the longest record 
of University service extant. Physically of a lean and 
emaciated figure, he had a very high opinion of his 
own erudition. Now in the old college there was a cer- 
tain ruinous wall to which was attached the legend, 
that it would topple over on some great scholar. The 
librarian affected an extreme anxiety when in the 
vicinity of the wall. At length it was taken down. 
Boswell told the story to Johnson. The sage did not 
lose the chance for a very palpable hit at Scots learn- 
ing. " They were afraid it never would fall ! " he 
growled. There was a like tradition regarding that 
precipitous part of Arthur's Seat quaintly named 
Samson's Ribs. An old witch prophesied they would 
be sure to fall on the greatest philosopher in Scot- 
land. Sir John Leslie was afraid to pass that way. 

The relations between the Town Council and the 
professors in the first half of the nineteenth century 
were sometimes far from harmonious. The days were 
past when the Academy of James VI. was merely the 
67 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

"Tounes Colledge," it was more and more a University 
with a European reputation. A cultured scholar of 
the type of Sir William Hamilton, " spectator of all 
time and of all existence," in Plato's striking phrase, 
was not like to rest contented under the sway of the 
Town Council. Possibly the Council sneered at him 
and his likes, as visionary, unpractical, eccentric; pos- 
sibly there was truth on both sides, so much does de- 
pend on your point of view. The University, some- 
what unwisely, went tolawwiththeCouncil, and came 
down rather heavily ; nor were the Council generous 
victors. The Lord Provost of the time met Professor 
Dunbar one day at dinner — " We have got you Pro- 
fessors under ourthumb, andby wewillmakeyou 

feel it," said he rather coarsely. The professors con- 
soled each other with anecdotes of Town Council 
oddities in college affairs. One councillor gave as a 
reason why he voted for a professorial candidate 
that, "He was asked by a leddy who had lately given 
him a good job." " I don't care that," said another, 

snappinghisfingers,"forthechairof , but whoever 

the Provost votes for, I'll vote for somebody else." 
An English scholar had come to Edinburgh as can- 
didate for a chair. He called on a worthy member 
of the Council to whom his very accent suggested 
black prelacy, or worse. " Are ye a jined member ? " 
The stranger stared in hopeless bewilderment. " Are 
ye a jined member o'onieboadie? " was the far from 
lucid explanation. However, the Act of 1858 has 
changed all this, and town and gown in Edinburgh 
fight no more. Well, there is no gown, and the Uni- 
versity has always been a good part of the good town 

68 



TOWN'S COLLEGE AND SCHOOLS 

of Edinburgh, as much now as ever. Take a broad 
view from first to last, and how to deny that the Coun- 
cil did their duty well ! Principal Sir Alexander Grant 
in his Story of the U7iiversityofEdinburghh&2.rs gener- 
ous and emphatic testimony as to this, and here we 
may well leave the matter. 

I must now desert the groves of the Academy of 
James Vl.tosay a word on a lesser school and its school- 
masters. Here we have the memorable and illus- 
trative story of the great barring out of September 
1595 at the old High School, The scholars had 
gone on the 15th of that month to ask the Council 
for the week's holiday of privilege as was usual. It 
was curtly refused, whereupon some "gentlemen's 
bairns " collected firearms and swords, and in dead 
of night seized the schoolhouse, which they fortified 
in some sort. Their Rector, Master Pollock, was re- 
fused admittance next morning, and complained to 
the magistrates. Bailie John Macmorran came to the 
spot with a posse of officers, but William Sinclair, son 
of the Chancellor of Caithness, took his stand at a 
window and threatened to pistol the first who ap- 
proached. Bailie Macmorran was a big man in his 
day — his house, now restored as University Hall, still 
rises stately and impressive in Riddle's Close, on the 
south side of the Lawnmarket — and he was not to be 
put down by a schoolboy ; he ordered his satellites to 
crash in the door with the beam they were bringing 
forward. It is not hard to reconstitute the scene : the 
bailie, full of civic importance and wrath, the angry 
boy at the window, the pride of youth and blood in 
his set, determined face. Presently the pistol shot 
69 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

rang out, and Macmorran fell dead on the pavement 
with a bullet through his brain. The vvholetown rush- 
ed to the spot, seized the frightened boys and thrust 
them into the Tolbooth, but finally they were liber- 
ated without hurt, after, it would seem, some form of 
a trial. 

There are many quaint details as to the scholars. 
They used to go to the fields in the summer to cut 
rushes or bent for the floor of the school, but, you 
see, fighting was the work orthe game of nearly every 
male in Scotland, and even the children must needs 
have their share. On these expeditions the boys fell 
to slashing one another with their hooks, and they 
were stopped. The winter of 1 7 1 6 was distinguished 
by furious riots, though not of the same deadly nature. 
The pupils demolished every window of the school 
and of the adjacent parish church of Lady Yester, 
also the wall which fenced the playground. 

I will not gather records ofthe various Rectors, not 
even of Dr. Alexander Adam, the most famous of 
them all. You can see to-day his portrait by Rae- 
burn, and one of Raeburn's best in the Gallery on the 
Mound, and think of his striking utterance in the last 
hours of his life, " Boys, it is growing dark, you may 
go home." In his prime he had a profound conviction 
of his own qualities and those of his school. " Come 
away, sir," — thus he would address a new scholar, — 
" you will see more here in an hour than you will in 
any other school in Europe." He had a long series 
of eminent pupils, among them Scott, Horner, and 
Jeffrey, and the manner in which they have spoken 
of him justifies his words and his reputation. 

70 



CHAPTER FOUR 
SURGEONS AND DOCTORS 



CHAPTER FOUR 

THE SURGEONS & THE DOCTORS 

THE PHYSICIANS, THE SURGEONS, THE 
medical schools of Edinburgh have long and famous 
histories. A few facts may assist the reader to under- 
stand the anecdotes which fill this chapter. The Guild 
of Surgeons and Barbers received a charter of Incor- 
poration from the Town Council on the ist July 1505, 
and to this in 1506 the sanction of James IV. was ob- 
tained. On 26th February 1 567 the surgeons and 
apothecaries were made into one body ; henceforth 
they ceased to act as barbers and, after 1722, save 
that the surgeons kept a register of barbers' apprent- 
ices, there was no connection whatever between the 
profession and the trade. In 1778 a charter was ob- 
tained from George III., and the corporation became 
the Royal College of Surgeons of the City of Edin- 
burgh. In earl)'^ days they had a place of meeting 
in Dixon's Close, but in 1656 they acquired and occu- 
pied Curriehill House, once the property of the Black 
Friars. In May 1775 the foundation-stone of a new 
hall was laid in Surgeons Square, hard by the old 
High School. Here the Incorporation met till the 
opening of the new Surgeons Hall ini 832 on the east 
side of Nicolson Street, a little way south of the old 
University buildings. Just as the barbers became 
separated from the surgeons, so in time a distinction 
was drawn between these last and the physicians. In 
1617, James VI. in the High Court of Parliament de- 
creed the establishment of a College of Physicians for 
Edinburgh. In poverty-stricken Scotland a scheme 
often remained a mere scheme for many long years. 
73 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

In 1656, Cromwell issued a patent establishing a Col- 
legeof Physicians on thelines laid down by James VL, 
but he passed away and his scheme with him, and it 
was not till 1681 that the charter was finally obtain- 
ed. Their ancient place of meeting was near the Cow- 
gate Port, but in 1775 the foundation of a splendid 
building was laid by Professor Cullen, their most 
eminent member. It stood opposite St. Andrew's 
Church, George Street, but in 1843 this was sold to 
the Commercial Bank for i^20,ooo, and in 1844 the 
foundation-stone was laid of the present hall in Queen 
Street. 

The first botanical garden in Edinburgh was found- 
ed by Sir Andrew Balfour (1630- 1694), who com- 
menced practice in the capital in 1670. He obtained 
from the Town Council a small piece of land between 
the east end of the Nor' Loch and Trinity College, 
which had formed part of the Trinity Garden. Here 
were the old Physic Gardens. About 1770 this was 
completely abandoned in favour of new land on the 
west side of Leith Walk, and in less than a hundred 
years, namely, in 1824, the new and splendid Royal 
Botanical Gardens were established in Inverleith 
Row ; to this all the " plant " of the old gardens was 
transferred. 

As to the medical faculty in the University, I note 
that the chair of anatomy was founded in 1705, and 
that its most famous occupants were the three Alex- 
ander Monro's, known z-sprinius, secundus, and tertius, 
who held the professorship between them for 126 
years, namely, from 1720 to 1846. The first Monro 
distinguished himself at the battle of Prestonpans,not 

74 



THE SURGEONS & THE DOCTORS 

by slaying but by healing. He attended diligently to 
the wounded on both sides and got them conveyed to 
Edinburgh. The second was professor from 1754 to 
1808, a remarkable period of fifty-four years. His fa- 
ther made an odd bargain with the Town Council. If 
they would appoint his son to succeed him he would 
carefullytrainhimforthepostinthebest schools both 
at home and abroad. They agreed, and the experi- 
ment turned out a complete success. He had studied 
at London, Leyden, Paris, and Berlin, and when he 
returned his father asked the city notabilities to hear 
his first lecture. Monro had got it up by heart, but 
he lost his presence of mind and forgot every word ; 
he had to speak extempore, yet he knew his subject 
and soon found his feet. He lectured without notes 
ever after. The most popular Scots divines have al- 
ways done the same. Monro tertius was not equal to 
his father or grandfather. The memory of his great 
predecessors was too much for him, " froze the genial 
current of his soul," made him listless and apathetic. 
He had as rival the famous Dr. John Barclay, extra- 
mural lecturer on anatomy, 1797-1825. Thislastwas 
very ready and self-possessed. Once he had to lecture 
on some part of the human frame ; the subject lay be- 
fore him covered with a sheet. He lifted the sheet, 
laid it down again, and proceeded to give an excel- 
lent discourse on anatomy, but not quite according 
to the programme ; in fact, a mistake had been made, 
and there was nothing under the sheet ; but, again, 
the feat does not seem altogether surprising. How- 
ever, the mistake was not so dire as that of one of 
his assistants, who after dinner one night hurried to 
75 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

the dissecting room to prepare the subject for next 
day. He pulled off the cloth, but it was at once pulled 
back again ; he pulled it off again, the same thing 
happened : the farthing dip that faintly illumined the 
room almost fell from his nerveless hand, a low growl 
revealed the unexpected presence of a dog whose teeth 
had supplied the opposing force ! Barclay's lectures 
were flavoured with pungent doses of caustic old 
Edinburgh wit. He warned his students to beware of 
discoveries of anatomy. " In a field so well wrought, 
what remained to discover? As at harvest, first come 
the reapers to the uncut grain and then the gleaners, 
and finally the geese, idly poking among the rubbish. 
Gentlemen, we are the geese ! " It was not rarely 
the habit of professors in former times to give free 
tickets for their courses. The kindness was some- 
times abused. Barclay applied a humorous but suf- 
ficient corrective. Once he had a notefrom Mr. Laing, 
bookseller,father of Dr. David Laing the well-known 
antiquary, requesting a free ticket for some sucking 
sawbones. Barclay professed himself delighted to 
confer the favour, but invited his proposed pupil to 
accompany him to Mr. Laing's shop, where he select- 
ed books on anatomy to the exactvalue of his ticket, 
and sagely remarking that without text-books his 
lectures were useless, presented them to the aston- 
ished youth as a gift from Mr. Laing ! Taking no 
denial he bundled the youth and the books out of the 
place. He did not again find it necessary to repeat 
the lesson. In Sir Robert Christison's Life some re- 
markable instances are given of this curious form of 
benevolence at somebody else's expense,but the sub- 

76 



THE SURGEONS & THE DOCTORS 

ject need notbe pursued, Barclay had collected a con- 
siderable museum, of which a fine elephant, an early 
Jumbo in fact, was the gem. His friends, who were 
numerous and powerful, tried to get a chair of com- 
parative anatomy founded for him in the University. 
Various members of the medical faculty opposed it 
tooth and nail, as poaching on their preserves. One 
of Kay's most famous caricatures represents Barclay 
seated on an elephant charging the college gate, 
which is barred against him by a learned crowd. The 
opposition succeeded and Barclay was never elect- 
ed professor. 

Barclayhad been brought up for the church, and in 
his early days had, duringthe absence of the Rev. Mr. 
Baird of Bo'ness, wagged his head in the pulpit of that 
divine. " Howdid they like him?" asked Baird of San- 
dy,thevillagesageorthevillageidiot or, perhaps, both. 
"Gey weel, minister, gey weel, but everybody thought 
him daft." "Why, Sandy?" "Oh, for gude reasons, 
minister ; Mr. Barclay was aye skinning puddocks" 
(frogs). It was reported that dogs fled in terror at 
the sight of him ; the sagacious animals feared capture 
and dissection; he had incautiously cut up a dog in 
the presence of its kind and thus had an ill name in 
the canine world ! Not that this implied any ill-will 
to dogs ; quite the contrary, as witness a story of John 
Goodsir (1814-1867), who succeeded Monro tertius 
as professor of anatomy in 1846. He had carefully 
studied the anatomy of the horse. " I love the horse, 
I love the horse," he said with genuine fervour, " I 
have dissected him twice ! " 

Barclay possessed an uncle, a full-blown divine, 
77 



BOOK OF EDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

and the founder of a sect by some called after him. 
Nephew and uncle argued theological points. The 
young man was so hard to convince that the elder 
sent a heavy folio flying at his head ; he dodged the 
missile, but if not confuted, was at any rate silenced. 
Many of the anecdotes of the surgeon's life in old 
Edinburgh turn on this question of anatomy. Until 
the Anatomy Act of 1832, that science was terribly 
hampered by the want of subjects. The charter of 
1505 provided an allowance of one body annually, 
which was almost ludicrously insufficient,hencebody 
snatching became almost a necessity, perhaps among 
the surgeons themselves it was counted a virtue, but 
they dared not say it openly. On 20th May 17 ri, the 
college solemnly protested against body snatching. 
On the 24th of January 1721 a clause was ordered to 
be inserted in indentures binding apprentices not to 
violate graves, but the populace, rightly or wrongly, 
thought those rascal surgeons had tongue in cheek 
all the time, and were ever inclined to put the worst 
possible construction on every circumstance that 
seemed to point that way. Lauder of Fountainhall 
commemorates an early case. On the 6th Febru- 
ary 1678 four gipsies, a father and three sons, were 
hanged together at Edinburgh, for killing another 
gipsy called Faa at Romanno. To the Edinburgh 
burghers of the day the gipsy and the cateran were 
mere wild beasts of prey, and these four wretches were 
hung in haste, cut down in haste, and forthwith hud- 
dled together with their clothes on — it was not worth 
while to strip them of their rags — into a shallow hole 
in Greyfriars Churchyard. Next morning the grave 

78 



THE SURGEONS & THE DOCTORS 

lay open, and the body of the youngest son, aged six- 
teen, was missing. It was remembered he had been 
the lastthrownover,and the first cutdown, and thelast 
buried. Perhapshehad revived, thrown aside a scanty 
covering of earth, and fled to Highland hill or Border 
waste. Others opined that the body had been stolen by 
some chirurgeon or his servant for the purpose of dis- 
section, on whichpossibilityFountainhall takes occa- 
sion to utter some grave legal maxims ; solemnly locks 
the door, as it were, in the absence of the steed. In 1742 
a rifled grave was noted in the West Kirkyard, and a 
body, presumably its former tenant, was presently 
discovered near the shop of one Martin Eccles, surg- 
eon. Forthwith the Fortsburgh drum was beating a 
mad tattoo through the Cowgate, and the mob pro- 
ceeded to smash the surgeon's shop. As for Martin, 
you may safely assume non est inve7itns, else had he 
been smashed likewise. Again, a sedan chair is discov- 
ered containing a dead body, apparently on its way 
to the dissecting room. The chairman and his assist- 
ant were banished, and the chair was burned by the 
common hangman. Again, one John Samuel, a gar- 
dener, moved thereto, you guess,by an all too consum- 
ing thirst, is taken at the Potterow Port trying to sell 
the dead body of a child, which was recognised as hav- 
ing been buried at Pentland the week before. He was 
soundly whipped through Edinburgh and banished 
Scotland for seven years. 

A still more sordid and more terrible tragedy is a- 
mong theevents of 1 7 5 2. Two women, Ellen Torrence 
and Jean Waldy, meet in the street a mother with her 
little boy, they ask her to drink, an invitation, it seems, 
79 



BOOK OF EDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

impossible to resist. Whilst one plied her with liquor, 
the other enticed the boy to her own den, where she 
pronnptly suffocated him. The body was sold for two 
shillings to the students, sixpence was given to the 
one who carried it, and it was only after long haggling 
thatan additional tenpencewasextorted"foradram." 
They were presently discovered and executed. This 
almost incredible story, to which Gilbert Glossin in 
Guy M annering Tcv^QS, a rather far-fetched reference 
in a discussion with Mr. Pleydell, proves at any rate 
one thing, there was a ready market for dead bodies in 
Edinburgh for purposes ofdissection, and as the buyer 
was not too in quisitive, indeed he could scarcely afford 
to be, the bodies almost certainly were illegally pro- 
cured ; though, whatever the populace might think 
and suspect, there was never any case where there was 
the least evidence that the surgeon was a party to the 
murder. Any surgeon who was such must have been 
a criminal lunatic. The case of Dr. Knox, to be pre- 
sently referred to, was the one that excited most no- 
tice and suspicion. It was carefully inquired into, and 
nothing was found against him. If there had been a 
/rzV?m/<7a> case, the popular feeling was so strong that 
the Crown authorities needs must have taken action, 
but I anticipate a little. 

From the latter half of the eighteenth century to 
the first part of the nineteenth, the resurrectionist and 
the pressgang were two subjects on which the popu- 
lar imagination dwelt with a certain fascinated hor- 
ror. The resurrectionist was so much in evidence 
that graves were protected with heavy iron frames 
(you still see one or two specimens in old Greyfriars 

80 



THE SURGEONS & THE DOCTORS 

and elsewhere), and churchyards were regularly wat- 
ched. There is no need to set forth how the tenderest 
and deepest feelings of human nature were outraged 
by the desecration of the last resting-place. On the 
other hand, the doctors were mad for subjects. Acer- 
tain enthusiasm for humanity possessed them, too. 
Were they not working to relieve suffering ? There 
was something else: the loveofdaring adventure, the 
romance and mystery of the unholy midnight raid 
had their attraction ; it was never difficult, you can 
believe,tocollectaharum-scarumsetof medicalstud- 
ents for an expedition. Some men, afterwards very 
eminent, early distinguished themselves. Thus, the 
celebrated surgeon, Robert Liston (i 794-1 847), was 
engaged in more than oneofthefollowingadventures, 
the stories of which I here tell as samples of the bulk. 
One Henderson, an innkeeper, had died in Leven, in 
Fifeshire. Two students from Edinburgh had snatch- 
ed the body and were conveying it away, when one 
of them suddenly felt ill. They took refuge with their 
burden, enclosed in a sack, in a convenient public- 
house. It happened to be the one formerly kept by 
Henderson, and now in charge of his widow and 
daughter. They were shown to an upper room, which 
contained a closed-in box bed, so frequent a feature 
in old Scots houses. The sick man was pulling him- 
self together with brandy and what not, when a great 
hubbub arose downstairs. The town officers v/ere 
searching the house for stolen property. The stud- 
ents were beside themselves with panic, though in fact 
the officers do not seem to have searched the upstairs 
room at all. However, " The thief doth fear each bush 
81 V 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

an officer," The two lads hastily took the body from 
the sack and put it in the bed, then they bolted thro- 
ugh the window, and were seen no more. The room 
as it turned out was used by the widow as a bedroom, 
and it was only when sheretiredforthenight — I need 
not follow the narrative further, save to note that the 
graveclothes had been made by herself! 

When Liston was a student he heard from a country 
surgeon of an interesting case where a post-mortem 
seemed desirable in the interests of science. He and 
some others dressed as sailors and repaired to the 
place by boat, for it was on the shore of the Firth. 
The surgeon's apprentice met them as arranged, and 
everything went off well. The marauding party re- 
paired for refreshment to a little change-house, leav- 
ing their sack under a near hedge. Here they spent a 
happy time in carousing and chaffing the country 
wench whom they found in charge. A loud shout of 
" Ship ahoy ! " startled them. The girl said it was only 
her brother, and a drunken sailor presently staggered 
in with the sack on his shoulders. Pitching it to the 
ground, he said with an oath, "Now if that ain't some- 
thing good, rot them chaps who stole it." Presently 
he produced a knife. " Let's see what it is," said he as 
he ripped the sack open. The sight of the contents 
worked a sudden change : the girl fled through the 
door with hysterical screams, the sailor on the instant 
dead sober followed, Liston seized the body, and all 
made for the boat, and they were soon safe back in 
Edinburgh. Liston is the chief figure of another ad- 
venture. He and his party had gone by boat to Rosy th 
to get the body of a drowned sailor. His sweetheart, 

82 



THE SURGEONS & THE DOCTORS 

nearly distracted at her recent loss, was scarce ab- 
sent from the tomb night or day. They did manage 
to get the body lifted and on board the boat, when 
the woman discovered the violated grave. Her wild 
shrieks rang in their ears as they pulled for the oppo- 
site shore as hard as they could, but they kept secure 
hold of their prey. Another story tells of a party of 
tyros who had raised the body of a farmer's wife from 
Glencorseorsomeneighbouringchurchyard. As they 
dragged along it seemed to their excited fancy that 
the body had recovered life and was hopping after 
them ! They fled with loud yells of terror, and left 
their burden by the roadside. The widower was the 
first to discover it there next morning. He thought it 
was a case of premature burial and made some fran- 
tic efforts at resuscitation: the truth only gradually 
dawned upon him. This, 1 venture to think, was the 
story that suggested to R. L. Stevenson his gruesome 
tale of TAe Body-stiatclier. 

Yet another story tells of a certain Miss Wilson of 
Bruntsfield Links who was courted by two admirers. 
She showed a marked preference for one, and when 
he died she seemed heart-broken. The other, not con- 
tent with having the field to himself, engaged the ser- 
vices ofa professional body-snatcher and proceeded to 
Buccleuch burying-ground. Miss Wilson was mour- 
ning at the grave; they waited till she was gone and 
then set to work, and the surviving rival soon had the 
cruel satisfaction ofknowing that the body of the other 
was on the anatomical table at the University ! 

I have mentioned the professional body-snatcher, 
and the class certainly existed. Obviously it was for- 
83 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

med of men of a low type, however afraid they might 
be to perpetrate actual murder. Among the best 
known was a certain Andrew Lees,called "Merry An- 
drew" by the students. He had been a carrier between 
a country town and Edinburgh,and his house was near 
the churchyard, which he despoiled at leisure. In after 
dayshe used to lament thetimes when he got subjects 
" as cheap as penny pies." It was said he drank six- 
teen glasses of raw whisky daily, and that on great 
occasions the glasses became pints. Various ruffians 
were associated with him, one nicknamed " Moudie- 
wart," or mole, from his skill in the delving part of the 
operation. Perhaps a line from Shakespearewasinthe 
mind of the nicknamer: 

" Well said, old mole, can'st work i' the earth so fast ? " 
More probably it was all native wit. Another was a 
sham parson called "Praying Howard,"whowept and 
supplicated with an unction hard to distinguish from 
the real article. There is no doubt these rascals thor- 
oughly enjoyed their knavish pranks, and they were 
ever on the watch to hear of some one dying, friend- 
less and alone ; then one appeared among a house- 
hold perplexed to know what to do with the remains 
of a person in whom they had no special interest. The 
stranger was a dear friend or near relative of the de- 
ceased, and was only anxious to bury him with all pos- 
sible honour, and in due course a mock funeral was ar- 
ranged, with parson, undertaker, and chief mourner. 
The procession started for some place in the country, 
but of course the real destination of the departed was 
one of the Edinburgh dissecting rooms. If things 
went well, Andrew and his fellows spent a night in 

84 



THE SURGEONS & THE DOCTORS 

wild debauchery in some tavern of ill odour in every 
sense of the word. 

At least those pranks were comparatively harm- 
less. The dead were gone beyond the reach of hurt, 
and the feelings of the living were not outraged. As 
regards the rifling of graveyards, you wonder how it 
was so often successful. The watchers were,however, 
paid hirelings, they were frozen with superstitious 
terror, they were usually paralysed with drink, and 
they had watched hours and nights already, and no- 
thing had happened. The assailants were infinitely 
more activein mind and body; they had full command 
of cash and of all necessary appliances, and they se- 
lected the time of their attack ; more than all, they 
seemed absolutely free from superstitious feeling. 
Yet, with it all, it is curious that no Edinburgh doctor 
orstudent seems ever to have been put in actual peril. 

I turn now to the Burke and Hare murders, which 
had important effects in various directions. The locus 
was Tanner's Close in the West Port, outside the city 
boundary. Here Burkekeptalodging-house,and here, 
onthe29thofNovember 1 827, Donald, an old pension- 
er, died in debt to Burke. Thus a needy man found him- 
self in possession of the body of his dead-and-gone 
debtor, and it seemed to him quite j ustifiable to fill up 
the coffin with rubbish, and sell the corpse to Dr. Knox 
of 10 Surgeon Square at £7, los., a sum which seemed 
for the moment a small fortune. Then the notion oc- 
curred to him or his associate, H are, how easy to press 
the life out of some of the waifs and strays that floated 
about the Grassmarket and its adjacent quarters, the 
very lowest in Edinburgh ! These were here to-day 
85 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

and gone to-morrow, and if they never turned up again 
who was there to ask after them or mourn their loss ? 
I shall not tell here the story of" Daft Jamie" and 
handsome Mary Paterson and the other victims, or of 
how the murderers were discovered, how Hare turned 
King's evidence, how Burke was convicted, whilst his 
associate, Helen Macdougal, escaped. Burke was exe- 
cuted amidst impressive and even terrible marks of 
popular indignation, and by a sort of poetic justice, 
which appealed to the popular imagination, he him- 
self was dissected. 

For us Dr. Knox is a more interesting and import- 
ant figure. The thing cast a shadow over his brilliant 
career, and at last his life was lost in flats and shallows, 
yet he was one of the most striking figures of his time. 
Though a cruel attack of small-pox in his youth had 
left him blind in the left eye, and plain to the verge, 
or over the verge, of ugliness, he was a special favour- 
ite with women, by his talk, by his manner, by you 
know not what. According to Shakespeare, Richard 
Crookback, a more evil man, surely, in every way, 
had the same fatal gift. Knox was widely read and 
of wide culture. In a city of brilliant talkers he was, 
so his biographer would have us believe, among the 
very best, nay, he ranks him equal or superior to De 
Quincey. We are told that he was so tender-hearted 
that he hated to think of experiments on living ani- 
mals; he did not believe that any real advantage was 
to be gained therefrom. He certainly was possessed 
of true enthusiasm for science ; he was by no means 
a rich man, yet he spent i^300 on a whale which he 
dissected, and whose skeleton he secured for the 

86 



THE SURGEONS & THE DOCTORS 

museum. It wasonlyan amiable weakness thathevvas 
very careful in his dress and person. His friend, Dr. 
Macdonald, afterwards professor of natural history 
at St. Andrews, calling upon him one day, found him 
with his sister Mary. She had a pair of curling-tongs 
in her hand, with which she was touching up her bro- 
ther's rather scanty locks. " Ah, ah ! I see," said Mac- 
donald, " the modern Apollo attired by the Graces." 
Knox was not unduly disturbed by remarks of this 
sort. Monro's pupils considered themselves in the 
opposite camp. One of them wagered that he would 
put the anatomist out of countenance. He set himself 
right before him in the street : " Well, by Jove, Dr. 
Knox, you are the ugliest fellow I ever saw in my life !" 
Knox quietly patted the impudent student on the 
shoulder: "Ah! then you cannot have seen my brother 
Fred!" As it happened , Fred was much the handsomer 
of the two, but he had been rather a thorn in the side 
of the anatomist, who had shown him much kindness, 
and maybe Knox was not ill pleased at the chance 
to give him a sly dig. His own students doted on him, 
they called him Robert for short. "Yes," said an 
enemy, "Robert le Diable" ; as such the people re- 
garded him. How he escaped death, or at least bodily 
injury, is a little curious ; even the students were af- 
frighted at the yells and howls of the mob outside his 
evening classroom. The lecturer pointed out that he 
had never missed a single lecture, and that he was not 
afraid. Once the rabble burned his effigy and attacked 
his house. Knox escaped to his friend, Dr. Adams, in 
St. Patrick Square. He was asked how he dare ven- 
ture out. He said he preferred to meet his fate, what- 
87 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

ever it was, outside than die like a rat in a hole, then he 
threw open the military cloak that he wore and reveal- 
ed a sword, pistols, and a Highland dirk. The brutes 
might kill him, but he would account for at least twenty 
of them first. All sorts of legends were told about him. 
He had many Kaffir skulls in his museum, and he was 
alleged to have explained: "Why, sir, there was no diffi- 
culty in Kaffraria. I had but to walk out of my tent and 
shoot as many as I wanted for scientific and ethnologi- 
cal purposes," Knox/^iai^experiences in South Africa, 
but they were not of this kind. In chap books and 
popular ditties his name ever went with the West Port 
murderers — a verse may be given : 

" Burke an' Hare 
Fell doun the stair 
Wi' a leddy in a box 
Gaun tae Doctor Knox." 

Once when walking in the Meadows with Dr. Adams, 
Knox gave a penny and said some pleasant words to 
a pretty little girl ofsix who was playing there. "Would 
she come and live with him," he said jestingly, " if he 
gave her a penny every day?" Thechild shook her head. 
" No ; you'd maybe sell me to Dr. Knox." His bio- 
grapher affirms he was more affected by this childish 
thrust than by all the hostility of the mob. He could 
give a shrewd thrust himself, however. Dr. John Reid, 
the physiologist, had dissected two sharks, in which 
he could discover no sign of a brain; he was much per- 
plexed. " Howon earth could the animals live without 
it ? " said he to Knox. " Not the least extraordinary," 
was the answer. " If you go over to the Parliament 
House any morning you will see a great number of 

88 




UK. AKL 11 1 l'.\i.\J fl H. .-M 

Friiiii .111 Eiitrr-.iviiig ;iUei Sii- John M 



THE SURGEONS & THE DOCTORS 

live sharks walking about without any brains what- 
ever." 

I have gone somewhat out of my way to complete 
the story of the resurrectionist times. I return to an 
earlier period with a note on the Royal Infirmary. 
The great evil of the body-snatching incidents was 
that it brought into disrepute and odium the profes- 
sion towards which the public felt kindly and to which 
they have been so greatly indebted for unpaid, un- 
selfish, and devoted service. During nearly two hun- 
dred years the great Edinburgh hospital known as 
"The Royal Infirmary" has borne witness to the 
labours in the public cause of the Edinburgh doctors. 
The story of its inception is creditable to the whole 
community. It was opened in 1729 on a very hum- 
ble scale in a small house. A charter was granted by 
George II. in 1736, and on the 2nd August 1738 the 
foundation-stoneofagreat building was laid to the east 
of the college near the old High School. The whole 
nation helped : the proprietors of stone quarries sent 
stone and lime ; timber merchants supplied wood ; the 
farmers carried materials; even day labourers gave the 
contribution of their labour,all free of charge. Ladies 
collected money in assemblies, and from every part 
of the world help was obtained from Scotsmen settled 
in foreign parts. Such is the old Royal Infirmary. 
When it was unable further to supply the wants of 
an ever-increasing population and the requirements 
of modern science, the new Royal Infirmary was 
founded in October 1870 and opened in October 1879 
on the grounds of George Watson's Hospital, which 
had been acquired for the purpose. The place is the 
89 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

western side of the Meadow Walk, and the same de- 
voted service to the cause of humanity has now been 
given for more than thirty years in those newer walls. 
But for the present we are concerned with incidents 
in the lives of old eighteenth-century doctors. Dr. 
Archibald Pitcairne (165 2-17 1 3), scholar and Jacob- 
ite, perhaps better known as that than as a physician, 
was a well-known figure. He was buried in Grey- 
friars' Churchyard under a rectangular slab with four 
pillars, on which there was an inscription by the 
learned Ruddiman, himself a Jacobite scholar and 
much in sympathy with the deceased. Pitcairne, like 
the rest of Edinburgh, set great store on his wine ; 
with an almost sublime confidence he collected cer- 
tain precious bottles and decreed in his will that 
these should not be uncorked until the King should 
enjoy his own again, but when the nineteenth cen- 
tury dawned it seemed hardly worth while to wait 
any longer. Pious souls were found to restore the 
tomb which, like so many other tombs in Greyfriars, 
alas ! had fallen into decay and disorder. They were 
rewarded in a way which was surely after the master's 
own heart. The 25 th of December 1800 was the an- 
niversary of the doctor's birth. The consent of Lady 
Anne Erskine, his granddaughter,havingbeen obtain- 
ed, the bottles were solemnly uncorked, and they 
were found to contain Malmsey in excellent preser- 
vation. Each contributor to the restoration received 
a large glass quaintly called a Jeroboam. This, you 
do not doubt, they quaffed with solemn satisfaction 
in memory of the deceased. 

Pitcairne was far from " sound," according to the 

90 



THE SURGEONS & THE DOCTORS 

standard of the time ; he was deist or perhaps even 
atheist, it was opined, and one was as bad as the other, 
but he must have his joke at whatever price. At a sale 
of booksacopy of Holy Writ could find no purchaser. 
" Was it not written," sniggered Pitcairne, " Verbum 
Deimanetin osternum ? " The crowd had Latin enough 
to see the point. There was a mighty pother, strong 
remarks were freely interchanged, an action for de- 
famation was the result, but it was compromised. I 
tell elsewhere of a trick played by Pitcairne on the 
tryers. Dr. Black, of the police establishment, play- 
ed one even more mischievous on Archibald Camp- 
bell, the city officer. Black had a shop in the High 
Street, the taxes on which were much in arrear, and 
the irascible Highlander threatened to seize his " cat- 
tinary (ipecacuanha) pottles." Black connected the 
handle of his door with an electric battery and await- 
ed developments. First cameaclerk, who gotnothing 
more than a good fright. He appeared before his mas- 
ter, who asked him what he meant by being "trunk 
like a peast" at that time of day ? He set off for the 
doctor's himself, but when he seized the door handle 
he received a shock that sent him reeling into the gut- 
ter. "Ah," said one of the bystanders, who no doubt 
was in the secret, " you sometimes accuse me of Hk- 
ing a glass, but I think the doctor has given you a 
tumbler \ " " No, sir," cried Archie as soon as he had 
recovered his speech. " He shot me through the 
shoulder with a horse-pistol. I heard the report by 

Laddie, do you see any plood ? " An attempt 

was made to communicate with the doctor next day 
through the clerk, but the latter promptly refused. 
91 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

" You and the doctor may paith go to the tevil ; do 
you want me to be murdered, sir ? " 

Practical joking of the most pronounced descrip- 
tion was much in favour in old Edinburgh. One 
Dempster, a jeweller in the Parliament Close, after a 
bout of hard drinking, was minded to cut his throat. 
A friend, described by Kay as " a gentleman of very 
convivial habits," remarked in jest that he would save 
him the trouble, and proceeded to stick a knife into 
him. It was at once seen that the joke — and the knife 
— if anything, had been pushed too far, and John Ben- 
net, surgeon, was summoned in desperate haste ; his 
treatment was so satisfactory that the wound was 
cured and the matter hushed up. The delighted 
Hamilton, relieved from dismal visions of the Tol- 
booth and worse, " presented Mr. Bennet with an 
elegant chariot," and from this time he was a made 
man. His ideas of humour were also a little peculiar. 
In payment of a bet he gave a dinner at Leith at which, 
as usual, everybody drank a great deal too much. 
They were to finish up the evening at the theatre, and 
there they were driven in mourning coaches at a funer- 
eal pace. All this you may consider mere tomfoolery, 
mad pranks of ridiculous schoolboys, but Bennet was 
a grave and reputable citizen; he was President of the 
Royal College of Surgeons in 1803, and died in 1805, 
and in the stories that I tell of him and others you 
have for good or ill eighteenth-century Edinburgh. 
He was a very thin man. He once asked a tailor if 
he could measure him for a suit of small clothes? "Oh," 
said the man of shears, " hold up your stick, it will 
serve the purpose well enough." You can only con- 

92 



THE SURGEONS & THE DOCTORS 

jecture whether the order was in fact given, for there 
the chronicle stops short. There are certain " large 
and comfortable words " in the Rhyming Epistle to a 
Tailor that would have served excellent well for a 
reply. Bennet had not the wit of Burns, and Jiis reply 
is not preserved. You believe, however, it did not lack 
strength. 

One of the best known surgeons of old Edinburgh 
was Alexander Wood (1725-1 807), whose name still 
survives inaverse of Byron's, Once he"would a-woo- 
ing go," and was asked by his proposed father-in-law 
as to his means. He drew out his lancet case: " We 
have nothing but this," he said frankly. He got the 
lady, however. Sir James Stirling, the Provost, was 
unpopular on account of his opposition to a scheme 
for the reform of the Royal boroughs of Scotland. 
He was so like Wood that the one was not seldom 
mistaken for the other, and a tragedy of errors was 
well-nigh acted. An angry mob, under the mistaken 
impression that they had their Lord Provost, were 
dragging Wood to the edge of the North Bridge with 
the loudly expressed intention of throwing him over, 
but when he yelled above the din," I'm lang Sandy 
Wood ; tak' me to a lamp and ye'll see," the crowd dis- 
solved in shouts of laughter. 

When the great Mrs. Siddons was at the theatre 
it was a point of fashion with ladies to faint by the 
score. Wood's services were much in requisition, a 
good deal to his disgust. " This is glorious acting," 
said some one to him. "Yes, and a d — d deal o't too," 
growled Sandy, as he sweated from one unconscious 
fair to the other. Almost as well known as Sandy 
93 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

were his favourite sheep WilHe and a raven, which 
followed him about whenever they could. 

The most conspicuous figure of the eighteenth-cen- 
tury Edinburgh doctors was William Cullen (17 lo- 
1 790). who in 1 756 was made Professor of Chemistry in 
the University. One charming thing about those 
Edinburgh doctors is their breadth of culture : Cullen 
had the pleasure of reading Don Quixote in the orig- 
inal. When Dugald Stewart was a lad he fell ill, and 
was attended by Cullen, who recommended the great 
Spaniard to the ingenious youth. Doctor and patient 
had many a long talk over favourite passages. Dr. 
John Brown, afterwards author of the Brunonian sys- 
tem of medicine, was assistant to Cullen, but they 
quarrelled, and Brown applied for a mastership in the 
High School. Cullen could scarcely trust his ears. 
" Can this be oor Jock ? " quoth he. 

Plain speaking was a note of those old Edinburgh 
medicals. Dr. John Clark was called in to consult 
as to the state of Lord Provost Drummond, who 
was ill of a fever. Bleeding seemed his only chance, 
but they thought him doomed, and it seemed use- 
less to torture him. " None of your idle pity," said 
Clark, " but stick the lancet into him. I am sure he 
would be of that opinion were he able to decide upon 
his case." Drummond survived because, or in spite, 
of the operation. Lord Huntington died suddenly on 
the bench after having delivered an opinion. Clark 
was hurried in from the Parliament Close. " The man 
is as dead as a herring," said he brutally. Every one 
was shocked, for even in old Edinburgh plain speak- 
ing had its limits. He might have taken a lesson from 

94 



THE SURGEONS & THE DOCTORS 

queer old Monboddo, who said to Dr. Gregory, " I 
know it is not in the power of man to cure me ; all I 
wish is euthanasia, viz. a happy death." However, he 
recovered. " Dr. Gregory, you have given me more 
than I asked — a happy life." This was the younger 
Gregory (175 3-1 821), Professor of Medicine in the 
University, as his father had been earlier. He was an 
eminent medical man, but agreat deal more; his quick 
temper, his caustic wit, hisgift of style, madehimadan- 
gerous opponent. The public laughed with him whe- 
ther he was right or wrong. His History of the West- 
ern Islands and Highlands of Scotland showed that 
hehad other than medical interests. In 1793, when the 
Royal Edinburgh volunteers were formed, he became 
one of them, and he disturbed the temper of Sergeant 
Gould, who said, " He might be a good physician, but 
he was a very awkward soldier." He asked too many 
questions. " Sir," said the instructor, "you are here to 
obey orders and not to ask reasons; there is nothing 
in the King's orders about reasons," and again, " Hold 
your tongue, sir. I would rather drill ten clowns than 
one philosopher." 

He who professes universal knowledge is not in 
favour with the specialist. Gregory visited Matthew 
Baillie in London, and the two eminent medicos were 
in after talk not entirely laudatory of one another. 
" Baillie," said Gregory, " knows nothing butphysic." 
"Gregory,"saidtheother,"seemstometo know every- 
thing but physic." This Matthew Baillie (1761-1823) 
was a well-known physician of his time who had done 
well in Edinburgh and gone south to do better still. 
He worked sixteen hours a day, and no wonder he 
95 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

was sometimes a little irritable. A fashionable lady 
once troubled him with a long account of imaginary 
ills, he managed to escape, but was recalled by an ur- 
gent message : " Might she eat some oysters on her 
return from the opera ? " " Yes, ma'm," said Baillie, 
" shells and all." 

Robert Liston (1794- 1847) began as Barclay's as- 
sistant. Like other eminent surgeons stories are told 
ofhispresenceofmindand fertility of resourceduring 
an operation. In an amputation of the thigh by Rus- 
sell, Professor of Clinical Surgery at the University, an 
artery bled profusely. From its position it could not 
be tied up or even got at. Liston, with the amputat- 
ing knife, chipped off a piece of wood from the operat- 
ing table, formed it into a cone, and inserted it so as 
at once to stop the bleeding and so save the patient. 
In 181 8 Liston left Barclay and lectured with James 
Syme(i799-i87o) as his assistant, but in 1822 Syme 
withdrew and commenced to lecture for himself. His 
old master was jealous. " Don't support quackery and 
humbug," he wrote as late as 1 830 in the subscription 
book of his rival's hospital. However, the two made 
it up before the end. This is not the place to speak 
of the skill of one of the greatest surgeons of his time; 
it was emphatically said of him " he never wasted a 
word, nor a drop of ink, nor a drop of blood." 

A contemporary of Syme was Sir William Fergus- 
son (i 808-1 877). He was one of that brilliant Edin- 
burgh band whodid so well in London ; he began as a 
demonstrator to Knox. In London he became Pre- 
sident of the Royal College of Surgeons, and the best 
known stories are of his later period. The speed and 

96 




PROFF'^SoP lAMl'.S SYMF. 



THE SURGEONS & THE DOCTORS 

cctainty of his work were remarkable. " Look out 
sharp, "said a student, "for if you only even wink, you'll 
miss the operation altogether." Once when operating 
on a large deep-seated tumour in the neck, a severed 
artery gave forth an enormous quantity of blood ; an 
assistant stopped the wound with his finger. "Just 
get your finger out of the way, and let's see what it 
is," and quick as lightning he had the artery tied up. 
There must have been something magical in the very 
touch of those great operators. A man afflicted with 
a tumour was perplexed as to the operation and the 
operator. But as he himself said : " When Fergusson 
put his hand upon me to examine my jaw, I felt that 
he was the man who should do the operation for me, 
the contrast between his examination and that of the 
others was so great." 

A little earlier than these last were the famous fam- 
ily of Bells. Sir Charles Bell (1774-1842)13 rather of 
London than of Edinburgh, though to him is ascribed 
the saying that " London is the place to live in, but 
nottodiein." JohnBelI(i763-i82o),his brother, was 
an Edinburgh surgeon of note, and a famous lecturer 
on surgery and anatomy. He had a violent contro- 
versy with Professor James Gregory, who attacked 
him in a Review of the Wj'itings of John Bell by Jo- 
nathan Dawplucker. This malignant document was 
stuck up like a playbill on the door of the lecture 
room, on the gates of the college,and of the infirmary, 
where he operated ; in short, everywhere, for such were 
the genial methods of Edinburgh controversy. Bell 
was much occupied and had large fees for his opera- 
tions. A rich country laird once gave him a cheque 
97 G 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

for ;!^50, which the surgeon thought much below his 
deserts. As the butler opened the door for him, he said 
to that functionary: "You have had considerable trou- 
ble opening the door for me, here is a trifle for you," 
and he tossed him the bill. The laird took the hint 
and immediately forwarded a cheque for £1^0. It is 
worth while to note that Joseph Bell ( 1 837-1 911), who 
sprang from the same family, has a place in literary 
fiction as the original Sherlock Holmes, 

The great name among modern Edinburgh doctors 
is clearly that of Sir James Young Simpson (181 1- 
1870), an accomplished scholar and antiquarian, as 
well as the discoverer of chloroform. His activity was 
incessant. An apology was made to him because he 
had been kept waiting for a ferry-boat. " Oh dear, no," 
said he, " I was all the time busy chloroforming the 
eels in the pool." His pietistic tendencies by no means 
quenched his sense of humour. Parting from a young 
doctor who had started a carriage, " I have just been 
telling him I will pray for his humility." Some one 
propounded the not original view that the Bible and 
Shakespeare were the greatest books in the world. 
" Ah," said he, " the Bible and Shakespeare — and Oli- 
ver and Boyd's Edinburgh Almanac," this last huge 
collection of facts he no doubt judged indispensable 
for the citizen. The final and solemn trial of chloro- 
form was made on the 28th November 1837. Simp- 
son, Keith, and Duncan experimented on themselves. 
Simpson went off, and was roused by the snoresof Dr. 
Duncan and the convulsive movements of Dr. Keith. 
"He saw that the great discovery had been made, and 
that his long labours had come to a successful end." 

98 



THE SURGEONS & THE DOCTORS 

Someextreme clergymenprotested/'Itenabled wom- 
en," one urged," to escape part of the primeval curse ; 
it was a scandalous interference with the laws of Pro- 
vidence." Simpson went on with his experiments. 
Once he became insensible under the influence of 
some drug. Ashe came to himself, he heard his butler, 
Clarke.shoutingin anger and concern : "He'll kill him- 
self yet wi' thae experiments, an' he's a big fule, for 
they'll never find onything better than clory." On an- 
other occasion, Simpson and some friends were taking 
chloral ether in aerated water. Clarke was much inter- 
ested in the "new champagne chlory"; he took what 
was left downstairs and administered it to the cook, 
who presently became insensible. The butler in great 
alarm burst in upon the assembled men of science: 
" For God's sake, sir, come doun, I've pushioned the 
cook." Those personalexperiments wereindeed tric- 
ky things. Sir Robert Christison (1797-1882) once 
nearly killed himself with Calabar bean. He swallow- 
ed his shaving water, which acted promptly as an 
emetic, but he was very ill for some time. One of the 
most beautiful things in Simpson's story was the de- 
votion of his own family to him, specially the care of 
his elder brother Alexander. " Oh, Sandie, Sandie," 
said Simpson again and again to the faithful brother, 
who stood by him even on his death-bed. To the out- 
side world he seemed the one Edinburgh figure of 
first importance. A citizen was presented at the Court 
of Denmark to the King of that country. " You come 
from Edinburgh," said His Majesty. "Ah! Sir Simp- 
son was of Edinburgh." 



CHAPTER FIVE 
ROYALTY 



CHAPTER FIVE ROYALTY 

A DIFFICULTY MEETS YOU IN MAKING 
Kings the subject of anecdote; the " fierce light " that 
beats about a throne distorts the vision, your anec- 
dote is perhaps grave history. Again, a monarch is 
sure to be a centre of many untrustworthy myths. 
What credit is to be placed, for instance, on engag- 
ing narratives Hke that of Howieson of Braehead and 
James V. ? Let us do the best we can. Here I pass 
over the legends of Queen Margaret and her son Da- 
vid, but one story of the latter I may properly give. 
Fergus, Prince of Galloway, was a timid if not repent- 
ant rebel. He made friends with Abbot Alwyn of 
Holyrood, who dressed him as a monk and presented 
him with the brethren on the next visit of the King. 
The kiss of peace, words of general pardon for all 
past transgressions, were matters of form, not to be 
omitted, but quite efficacious. Fergus presently re- 
vealed himself, and everybody accepted the dodge 
as quite legitimate. You recall the trick by which 
William of Normandy got Harold to swear on the 
bones of the saints : the principle evidently was, get 
your oath or your pardon by what dodge you choose, 
but at all costs get it. Alexander, Lord of the Isles, 
played a more seemly part in 1458 when he appeared 
before James i. at the High Altar at Holyrood, and 
held out in token of submission his naked sword with 
the hilt towards the King. A quaint story is chroni- 
cled of James II. As a child he was held in Edinburgh 
Castle by Crichton,the Lord Chancellor. The Queen 
Mother was minded to abduct him ; she announced a 
pilgrimage to Whitekirk, a famous shrine or shrines, 
103 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

for there was more than one of the name. Now a 
Queen, even on pilgrimage and even in old-time Scot- 
land, must have a reasonable quantity of luggage, 
change of dresses, and what not. Thus no particular 
attention was given to a certain small box, though 
the Queen's servants, you believe, looked after it with 
considerable care. In fact it contained His Majesty 
in propria persona. By means of a number of air- 
holes practised in the lid he managed to survive the 
journey. It is said his consent was obtained to his 
confinement, but those old Scots were used to carry 
their own lives and the lives of others in their hands, 
and he had little choice. This is the James who ended 
at Roxburgh by the bursting of a cannon. His son 
had peculiar relations with Edinburgh. In 1482 he 
gave the city its Golden Charter, exalting its civic 
rulers, and his Queen and her ladies knit with their 
own hands for the craftsmen the banner of the Holy 
Ghost, locally known for centuries as the " Blue Blan- 
ket," that famous ensign which it was ridiculously fab- 
led the citizens carried with them to the Holy Land. 
At this, or rather against the proud spirit of its own- 
ers, James VI. girded in the Basilicon Doron. It made 
a last public appearance when it waved, a strange an- 
achronism, in 1745 from the steeple of St. Giles to 
animate the spirits of the burghers against Prince 
Charles and his Highlanders, then pressing on the 
city. There it hung, limp, bedraggled, a mere hopeless 
rag ! How unmeet, incongruous, improper, to use it 
against a Stuart ! At any rate it was speedily pulled 
down, and stowed away for ever. James III. fell at 
Sauchieburn in 1488. It wasrumoured he had surviv- 

X04 




MARGARET TUDOR, QUEEN OF JAMES IV. 

From the Painting by Mabuse 



OF ROYALTY IN EDINBURGH 

ed the battle and taken refuge on the Yellow Carvel 
which Sir Andrew Wood, his Admiral, had brought 
to the Forth. The rebel lords sent for Sir Andrew, 
whom the Duke of Rothesay, afterwards James IV., 
mistook for his dead parent. "Sir,areyou my father?" 
said the boy. " I am not your father, but his faithful 
servant," answered the brave sailor with angry tears. 
The lords after many questions could make nothing 
ofhim,so they let him go back tohisship,just in time 
to save the lives of the hostages whom his brothers, 
truculent and impatient, were about to string up at 
the yard-arm. 

The reign of James IV. is full of picturesque inci- 
dent. There are stories of brilliant tournaments at 
Edinburgh, where he sat on a ledge of the Castle rock 
and presided over the sports of a glittering throng 
gathered from far and near. There are the splendid 
records of his marriage with Margaret, Henry Vll.'s 
daughter, the marriage that a hundred years after- 
wards was to unite the Crowns, the marriage whose 
fateful import even then was clearly discerned ; and 
there is the tragic close at Flodden, of which, in the 
scanty remnants of the Flodden Wall, Edinburgh 
still bears the tangible memorials. 

I prefer to note here quainter and humbler me- 
morials. James had a curious, if fitful, interest in art 
and letters. The picturesque Pitscottie boldly affirms 
him " ane singular guid chirurgione." In the book of 
the royal expenses we have some curious entries. A 
fine pair of teeth had an unholy attraction for him. 
He wouldhavethem out, on any or no pretext. "Item, 
ane fellow because the King pullit furtht his teith, 
105 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

xviiishilHngs." "Item,toKynnard,yebarbour,fortwa 
teith drawn furtht of his hed be the King, xviii sh." 
History does not record what the " fellow " or the 
"harbour" said on the subject, or whether they were 
contented with the valuation of their grinders, which 
was far from excessive since the computation is in 
Scots money, wherein a shilling only equalled an 
English penny. The barber, moreover, according to 
the practice of the time, was a rival artist, but — specu- 
lation is vain ; though it will be observed that instead 
of the patients feeing the Royal physician, they were 
themselves feed to submit to treatment. This same 
Lindsay of Pitscottie is also our authority for another 
story to the full as quaint. James desired to know the 
original language of mankind. He procured him two 
children — human waifs and strays were plentiful in 
old Scotland ; provided them with a dumb woman for 
nurse, and plumped the three down on Inchkeith, that 
tiny islet in the Forth a little way out from Leith. 
Our chronicler is dubious as to the result. " Some say 
they spak guid Hebrew, but I know not by authoris 
rehearse." The "guid Hebrew," if it ever existed, died 
with them. Nor is there any trace of a Scots Yiddish, 
a compound whereof you shudder at the bare con- 
ception. 

Under James V. we have the popular legend of 
Howieson already referred to. James, or all tradition 
errs, was given to wandering in disguise through his 
kingdom to see how his subjects fared or to seek love 
adventures, or perhaps for both. The King of the 
Commons, as his folk called him, took things as they 
came and life as he found it. The story goes that he 

106 



OF ROYALTY IN EDINBURGH 

was courting some rustic damsel in Cramond village 
when he was set upon by a band of enraged rivals or 
relatives. He defended himself on the narrow bridge 
that then crossed the Almond, but spite his efficient 
swordplay was like to get the worst of it when a rus- 
tic, one Jock Howieson,who was working near at hand, 
came to his aid and laid about him so lustily with his 
flail that the assailants fled. There was some talk of 
a reward, and Jock confessed that his dearest wish 
was to own the land which he tilled. The stranger, 
without revealing his identity, or, rather, concealing it 
under the title of the Gudeman of Ballengiech (the 
traditional name adopted by James in his wanderings 
and derived from a road or pass at Stirling Castle), 
made an appointment with his preserver at Holyrood 
Palace. Jock turned up in due course, and was prom- 
ised an interview with the King, whom he would re- 
cognise as the only man with his bonnet on. Jock, 
with rustic humour, replied that either he himself or 
his friend must be the King since they were the only 
two that were covered, A grant ofthe land, which con- 
veniently turned out to be Crown property, speedily 
followed on the condition that when the King came 
that way Jock or his descendant should present him 
with a vessel of water wherein to wash his hands. "Ac- 
cordingly in the year 1822 when George iv. came to 
Scotland the descendant of John Howieson of Brae- 
head, who still possesses the estate, which was given 
to his ancestor, appeared at a solemn festival and 
offered His Majesty water from a silver ewer that he 
might perform the service by which he held his lands." 
Thus Sir Walter Scott in the Tales of a Grandfather. 
107 



BOOK OF EDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

It seems that in 1822 the proprietor was William 
Howieson Crawford, Esq. of Braehead and Crawford- 
land. One fancies that the good Sir Walter jogged, if 
one may say so, Mr. Crawford's memory, and possibly 
arranged both " the solemn festival " and " the silver 
ewer." This entertaining legend has not escaped — 
how could it ? — sceptical modern critics. It is shown 
thatnotforcenturies after James did thestorytakeco- 
herent shape, and that as handed down it can scarce 
have happened. What can you say but that in some 
form or other it may have had a foundation in fact ? 
That if it is not possible conclusively to prove, neither 
is it possible clearly to disprove, and finally it is at 
least ben trovato. 

In setting down one or two anecdotes of James v.'s 
Queens I am on surer ground. In 1537, James was 
married to Magdalen, daughter of Francis I., in the 
Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris. They reached 
Scotland on the 27th of May. As the Queen landed 
she knelt down and kissed the soil, a pretty way of 
adopting her new fatherland that touched those hard 
Scots as it still touches us, but on the loth of July 
the poor child, she was not complete seventeen, was 
lying dead at Holyrood. It was a cold spring: the 
Castle was high and bleak, Holyrood was damp and 
low. She was a fragile plant and she withered and 
faded away, for us the most elusive and shadowy of 
memories, yet still with a touch of old-world sweet- 
ness. All the land grieved for that perished blossom. 
It was the first general mourning known in Scotland, 
and there was in due time " the meed of some melodi- 
ous tear" from George Buchanan and David Lindsay. 

108 




MARY () 



OF ROYALTY IN EDINBURGH 

Before a year had passed away, to wit, in June 1538, 
James had brought another mate to Scotland, a very 
different character, known in our history as Mary 
of Guise, the famous mother of a still more famous 
daughter, Mary Queen of Scots. James v.'s widow was 
Queen Regent during most of the minority of her 
child, and she held her own with unfailing courage and 
ability. If she tricked and dodged she was like every- 
body else. In that bitter fight neither Catholic nor 
Protestant were over-scrupulous ; she was on the un- 
popular and finally on the losing side, but she fought 
as steadfastly and stoutly for what gods she had as 
Knox himself, and she was not one of the royal au- 
thors. Her story is told for us mainly by her enemies, 
andchiefof all by John Knox, the most deadlyamong 
them. 

In 1 5 56 he addressed a letter to her, by desire of the 
Congregation, exhorting her to renounce the errors 
of Rome ; she handed this to Beaton, Bishop of Glas- 
gow. " Please you, my Lord,to read a pasquil." Knox, a 
humorist himself, was peculiarly sensitive to scorn- 
ful irony, and of that two of his contemporaries had a 
peculiargift,theQueen Regent, Mary of Guise,and the 
Secretary, Maitland of Lethington. He never forgot 
nor forgave these thrusts, and he cordially hated both. 
This does not justify his vicious and one-sided ac- 
count of the death-bed of this Royal lady in 1 5 60 : "God 
for his greit mercyis saik red us frome the rest of the 
Guysianeblude. Amen. Amen." Such were the folk of 
the time. In 1560 the Congregation made an attack 
on Leith, which was held by the French. They failed : 
the French, Knox tells us, stripped the slain and laid 
109 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

them along the wall. When the Regent looked across 
the valley at this strange decoration she could not 
contain herself for joy, and said, " Yonder are the fair- 
est tapestrie that ever I saw. I wald that the haill 
feyldis that is betwix this place and yon war strowit 
with the same stuffe." I am quite ready to believe this 
story. On both sides death did not extinguish hatred, 
not even then was the enemy safe from insult. Does 
not Knox himself tell us with entire approval how his 
party refused the dead Regent the rights of herchurch, 
and how the body was " lappit in a cope of lead and 
keipit in the Castell " for long weary months till it 
could be sent to France, where the poor ashes were at 
length laid to rest in due form? 

Whatever the creed of either side, both in practice 
firmly held that Providence was on the side of big 
battalions. Almost of necessity the Regent was con- 
tinually scheming fortroops and possession of castles 
and so forth. Some quaint anecdotes are told of her 
dealings with Archibald, sixth Earl of Angus, grand- 
son of old " Bell the Cat," and gifted like him with 
power of emphatic utterance. Angus had married, in 
1514, Margaretjthewidowofjamesiv. Forsometime 
he was supreme in Scotland and was at the lowest a 
person to be reckoned with. In his passages of wit 
with the Regent she comes off second best, but then 
again the account is by Hume of Godscroft, historian 
andpartisanofthehouseofDouglas. Thetimehadnot 
yet come for Kings to subsidise letters. Once Mary 
told Angus that she proposed to create the Earl of 
Huntly, his rival, a duke. " By the might of God " — 
his oath when angry — " then I will be a drake." He 



OF ROYALTY IN EDINBURGH 

was punning on duke, which is Scots for duck, and 
meant to say that he would still be the greater, though 
possibly the Queen required a surgical operation be- 
fore she understood. Once he came to pay his com- 
pliments to her in Edinburgh at the head of a thou- 
sand horsemen. She angrily reproved him for breach 
of the proclamation against noblemen being so at- 
tended ; but Angus had his answer ready. " The 
knaves will follow me. Gladly would I be rid of them, 
for they devour all my beef and my bread, and much, 
Madam, should I be beholden to you, if you could 
tell me how to get quit of them." Again, when she un- 
folded to him a plan for a standing army, he prompt- 
ly said, "We will fight ourselves better than any hired 
fellows," she could hardly reply that it was against 
disturbing forces like his own that she longed for a 
defence. She proposed to garrison Tantallon, that 
strong fortress of the Douglas which still rises, mere 
shell though it be, in impressive ruin on the Lothian 
coast opposite the Bass Rock. Angus had his gos- 
hawk on his wrist, and was feeding it as he talked with 
the Queen, and one notes that it seemed quite proper 
for nobles to go about so accompanied. He made as if 
he addressed the bird, " Greedy gled, greedy gled, thou 
hast too much already, and yet desirest more": the 
Queen chose not to take the obvious hint, but per- 
sisted. Angus boldly faced the question. " Why not, 
Madam? Ah yes, all is yours, but. Madam, I must 
be captain of your muster and keeper of Tantallon." 
Not that these epigrams altered the situation, rather 
they expressed it. Even in the hostile narrative your 
sympathies are sometimes on the side of Mary of 
III 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

Guise. In 1558 a calf with two heads was shown to 
her, apparently as a portent of calamity, like the bos 
locutus est of Livy, but what it exactly meant no one 
could say. "She scripped and said it was but a com- 
mon thing," in which, at any rate, she has the entire 
approval of the modern world. 

Her daughter Mary gave Edinburgh the most ex- 
citing, romantic, interesting, and important time in 
the city's annals. It was scarcely six years in all (19th 
August I56i-i6thjune 1567), but those were crowd- 
ed years : the comparatively gay time at first ; the 
marriage with Darnley ; the assassination of Rizzio ; 
the murder of Darnley; her seizure by Bothwell ; her 
marriage to Bothwell ; the surrender of Carberry, 
with her departure for Loch Leven. I scarce know 
what to select. On 1 5th April 1 562 Randolph writes : 
"The Queen readeth daily after her dinner,instructed 
by a learned man, Mr. George Buchanan, somewhat 
of Livy." You wish it had been Virgil, because you are 
sure scholar and pupil had tried the Sortes VirgiliancB 
with results even more pregnant than happed to 
Mary's grandson Charles I., at Oxford, in the time of 
the civil wars, and the mere mention of George Buch- 
anan is fateful. He, at any rate, was an earnest and 
high-minded man, and he employed all the grace of 
his Latin muse to say delightful things about her on 
more than one occasion, and he had, in after years, 
every term of invective to hurl at her also in Latin, 
but prose this time, and he felt himself justified in 
both. The modern point of view which would find 
her almost certainly guilty of being an accessary be- 
fore the fact to the slaughter of Darnley, that would 

112 




MARY, C>i 



OF ROYALTY IN EDINBURGH 

also find that the circumstances were so peculiar, that 
she was by no means altogether blameworthy, was 
not the conception of her own day. She was guilty, 
and therefore a monster of wickedness ; or she was 
innocent, and therefore a martyr : those arethesharp- 
ly opposed views. It was not an age of compromise 
or judicial balance. Take another incident. Rizzio's 
murder was on 9th March 1566. Immediately after 
she won over Darnley, mixed up with the affair as he 
had been. The pair escaped from Holyrood in the 
midnight hours, through the burial vaults and tombs 
of the palace. Darnley made some sudden and half- 
involuntary reference to the freshly-turned grave of 
Rizzio that lay right in their path. Mary gripped his 
arm and vowed, in what must have been a terrible 
whisper, that ere a year had passed " a fatter than he 
should lie as low." Kirk-o'-field was on loth Febru- 
ary 1567. 

I prefer here to deal with trivialities, not tragedies. 
How curiously from the first sheoccupied the thoughts 
of men : ere she was a month old grave statesmen were 
busy match-making ! In 1558 she married the Dau- 
phin, afterwards Francis II. When the news came to 
Edinburgh it was felt that some celebration was ne- 
cessary. " Mons Meg was raised forth from her lair " 
and fired once. The bullet was found on WardieMuir, 
two miles off, and bought back by a careful Govern- 
ment to serve another occasion. We are told the cost 
of the whole affair was ten shillingsandeightpence,no 
doubt Scots currency, and without any doubt at all 
the most frugal merry-making in history. I will relate 
thisother comic interlude of the night of herarrival at 
113 H 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

Holyrood. Knox tells thestoryof her landingwith his 
never-failing graphic force : the thick and dark mist 
that covered the earth, a portent of the evil days to 
come, "the fyres of joy " that blazed through it all, 
" and a companyof the most honest with instruments 
of musick and with musitians gave their salutationis 
at hir chamber wyndo. The melody (as she alledged) 
lyked hir weill and she willed the same to be contine- 
ued some nightis after." Knox is a little doubtful as 
to the sincerity of her thanks. Brantome was of the 
Queen's company, and the gay Frenchman gives us 
a very different account of the proceedings. " There 
came under her window five or six hundred rascals of 
that town, who gave her a concert of the vilest fiddles 
and little rebecs, which are as bad as they can be in 
that country, and accompanied them with singing 
Psalms, but so miserably out of time and concert that 
nothing could be worse. Ah, what melody it was ! 
What a lullaby for the night ! " One of the Queen's 
Maries remembered and applied a favourite text of 
Montlin, Bishop of Valence, on which they had heard 
more than one sermon : " Is any merry, let him sing 
Psalms." If she showed herself a Scot by her Biblical 
quotation, you guessshe revealed her French upbring- 
ing inan infinitely expressive shrug and grimace; but 
forthatnighteven Mary 'sspirit was broken. Shefound 
no place for mirth and could scarce refrain from tears, 
yet she had the courage on that and other mornings 
gracefully to thank the musicians ; only she shifted 
her bedroom to the floor above,and slept, you believe, 
none the worse for the change. The drop in material 
comfort,not tospeak of anythingelse, must have been 

114 



I 



OF ROYALTY IN EDINBURGH 

enormous, from gay, wealthy, joyous France to this 
austere, poverty-stricken land and people. Did not 
some mad scheme for instant return move through 
her brain ? No, for after all she was a Queen and a 
Stuart, and it is mere commonplace to say that she 
never failed to confront her fate. 

It were easy and useless to dwell on the glaring 
contrasts in character between Mary and her son 
James, between the most tragically unfortunate and 
the most prosaically fortunate of the Stuarts. Such 
contrasts between the character and fate of parent and 
child are not uncommon in daily life. The first day of 
James on earth was memorable for the dramatic meet- 
ing of his father and mother. He was born in Edin- 
burgh Castle, in the little room that is shown you there, 
between nine and ten on the morning of Wednesday, 
19th June 1 566. About two in the afternoon Darnley 
came to see his child. Like everybody else in Edin- 
burgh, he had known of the event for hours, since a few 
minutes after the birth heavy guns, almost at Mary's 
bedsideand withouta word of protest from the courag- 
eous woman, had roared out theirsignal to the capital 
that well-nigh went mad on the instant with joy and 
pride. The nurse put the child into Darnley's arms. 
"MyLord,"said Mary simply and solemnly," God has 
given you and me a son." Then she turned to Sir Wil- 
liam Stanley : " This is the son who I hope shall first un- 
ite the two kingdoms of Scotland and England." The 
Englishman said something courteous about the pri- 
or rights of Mary and Darnley, and then Mary wan- 
dered off into the Rizzio business only three months 
before. What would have happened if they had then 
115 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

killed her ? You fancy the colour went and came in 
Darnley's face. "These things are all past," he mut- 
tered. " Then," said the Queen, " let them go." As 
James grewuphe becamewell-nigh themost eminent 
of royal and noble authors, and that strange mixture 
of erudition,folly,wisdom,andsimplicity which marks 
him as one of the oddest characters in history. He 
was great in nicknames and phrases, and the nick- 
names stuck and the phrases are remembered. "Tarn 
o' the Coogate" for the powerful Earl of Haddington ; 
"Jock o' the Sclates " for the Earl of Mar, because 
he, when James's fellow-pupil, had been entrusted by 
George Buchanan witha slate thereon tonote James's 
littlepeccadilloesinhistutor'sabsence; better than all, 
" JinglingGeordie" for George Heriot the goldsmith. 
What aword picture that givesyou of the prosperous 
merchant prince who possibly hinted more than once 
that he could an he would buy up the whole Court ! 
That well-known story of ostentatious benevolence 
can hardly be false, George visited James at Holy- 
rood and found him over a fire of cedar wood, and the 
King had much to say of the costly fuel ; and then 
the other invited him to visit his booth hard by St. 
Giles', where he was shown a still more costly fire of 
the Royal bonds or promissory notes, as we might 
call them in the language of to-day. We know that 
the relations between the banker and his Royal cus- 
tomer were of the very best ; and how can we say 
anything but good of Heriot when we think of that 
splendid and beautiful foundation that to-day holds 
its own with anything that modern Edinburgh can 
show ? As for his colloquial epigrams, there is the 

ii6 



OF ROYALTY IN EDINBURGH 

famous account of David I. as a " sair sanct " for the 
Crown ; his humorous and not altogether false state- 
ment, when the Presbyterian ministers came to inter- 
view him, "Set twal chairs, there be twal kings com- 
ing " ; his description — at an earlier date, of course 
— of the service of the Episcopal Church as " an evil 
said mass in English wanting nothing but the lift- 
ings " ; his happy simile apropos of his visit to Scot- 
land in 1 617 of his " salmon-lyke " instinct — a great 
and natural longing to see "our native soil and place 
of our birth and breeding." No wonder he got a re- 
putation for wisdom ! A quaint anecdote dates his 
renown in that regard from a very early period in- 
deed. On the day after his birth theGeneral Assembly 
met,and were much concerned as to the religious edu- 
cation of the infant. They sent Spottiswoode, " Sup- 
erintendant of Lothian," to interview the Queen on the 
subject. He urged a Protestant baptism and upbring- 
ing for the child. Mary gave no certain answer, but 
brought in her son to show to the churchmen, and 
probably also as the means of endingan embarrassing 
interview. Spottiswoode, however, repeated his de- 
mand, and with pedantic humour asked the infant to 
signify his consent. The child babbled something, 
whichoneof the hearers at least took for" Amen,"and 
" Master Amen " was the Court-name for Spottis- 
woode ever after. 

James deserved to be called the British Solomon, 
but then how did it happen that the man had such a 
knack of making himself ridiculous ? On the night of 
the 23rd July 1 593 the madcap Francis Earl of Both- 
well made one of his wild raids on Holyrood. James 
117 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

came out of his chamber in terror and disorder, "with 
hisbreeks in hishand"; trembling,he implored the in- 
vaders to do him no harm. " No, my good bairn," said 
Bothwell with insolence (the King was twenty-seven 
at the time); and as a matter of fact no harm was done 
him. Fate tried the mother of James and the son of 
James far more severely than it ever tried James him- 
self, and Mary Stuart and Charles the First managed 
things so ill thateach in theend had to lay theheadon 
the block,but no one ever spoke to them like that, and 
they never made themselves ridiculous. Mary was nev- 
er less than Queen and Charles was never less than 
King, and each played the last scene so superbly as to 
turn defeat and ruin into victory and honour, and if you 
say it was birth and breeding and the heritage of their 
race how are you to account for the odd figure in be- 
tween? Hereisanother trivial anecdote. On Tuesday, 
5th April 1603, James set forth southward totakepos- 
session of his English throne. As Robert Chambers 
points out, here was the most remarkable illustra- 
tion of Dr. Johnson's remark that the best prospect 
a Scotsman ever saw was the high road to England. 
Not very far from Holyrood stood splendid Seton 
Palace, and as James and his folk drew near they 
crossed another procession. It was the funeral train 
of the first Earl of Winton, who had been an attach- 
ed adherent of James's mother. One of the Queen's 
Maries was a Seton, and James, as was right and 
proper, made way and halted till the procession of the 
mightier King Death had passed. He perched himself 
in the meantime on the garden wall, and you think 
of him hunched up there "glowering" at the proceed- 

118 



OF ROYALTY IN EDINBURGH 

ings. On his return to Scotland James spent at Seton 
Palace his second night after crossing the Tweed, 
and it was here he received Drummond of Haw- 
thornden's poem of Forth Feasting. There was un- 
bounded popular rejoicing, though not without an 
occasional discordant note; for the Presbyterian Scot 
was terribly suspicious. It happened that one of the 
royal guards died during the visit. He was buried 
with the service of the English Church, read by a 
surpliced clergyman ; there was an unseemly riot, 
and the parson if he escaped hard knocks got the 
hardest of words. He was William Laud, afterwards 
Archbishop of Canterbury. Let me end those stories 
of James with one of a lighter character. I have 
spoken of James's schoolfellow, the Earl of Mar. He 
was left a widower, his wife Ann Drummond having 
died after giving birth to a son. An Italian magician 
had shown him, as in a glass darkly, the face of his 
secondspouse. Heidentifiedthefigure asthatof Lady 
Mary Stuart of the Lennox family, who would have 
none of him ; for the Drummond baby would be Earl 
of Mar, whilst hers would only be Mr. Erskine. Jock 
o' the Sclates was so mortified at the refusal that he 
took to his bed, and seemed like to make a mortal 
though ridiculous exit; but the Kingcame to encour- 
age him. *' By God, ye shanna dee, Jock, for ony lass 
in a' the land ! " In due course James brought about 
the marriage, which turned out well for all concerned. 
The Kings after James had but a very remote and 
chance connection with Edinburgh. There are golfing 
anecdotes of Charles I. and James II., and there is not 
even that about Charles II. Charles I. when in Edin- 
119 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

burgh was fond ofthe Royal game on the links at Leith, 
then the favourite ground for the sport. It was whilst 
so engaged he heard the news ofthe massacre in Ire- 
land, and not unnaturally he threw down his club and 
hastily quitted the links. The anecdote of James II. is 
of a more detailed character, for Golfer's Land, grim 
and battered, still stands in the Canongate. When 
James held court at Holyrood as Duke of York, he 
was given to golfing on the links. He had a match 
with two English noblemen, his fellow-player in the 
foursome being John Patterson, a poor shoemaker in 
the Canongate, but a superb golfer. If you don't know 
the story, at least you anticipate the result. The Eng- 
lishmen were shamefully beaten, and the stake being 
too small game for Royalty, Patterson netted the pro- 
ceeds, with which he built Golfer's Land. The learned 
Dr. Pitcairne adorned it with a Latin inscription, and 
all you can say is you hope the legend is true. Another 
story of James tells how one ofthe soldiers on duty at 
Holyrood, mortal tired or perhaps mortal drunk, was 
found asleep at his post. Grim old Tom Dalzell was 
in charge, and he was not the man to overlook such 
an offence,but marked out the culprit for instant exe- 
cution. The Duke, however, intervened and saved the 
man's life. I am glad to tell those stories of James, who 
as a rule fares so ill at the hands of the historians. 

Although I have said nothing of Charles II., his 
statue perhaps deserves a word. It stands in Parlia- 
ment Square, between St. Giles' and the Parliament 
House. The local authorities were once minded to set 
up the stone image of Cromwell in that same place, 
indeed the stone had been got ready when the Restor- 

I20 



OF ROYALTY IN EDINBURGH 

ation changed the current of their thoughts, and after 
an interval of twenty-five years they put up one to 
Charles II. instead, the onlystatue that old Edinburgh 
for many a long day possessed. 

Kings and Queens came and went for the better part 
of a century, but none of them came to Edinburgh, or 
even to Scotland,for you cannot count the fugitive visit 
of the Old Pretender as anything at all. Itwas not till 
Prince Charles Edward Stuart made the memorable 
descent on the capita] in the '45 that I can again take 
up the easy thread of my narrative. Here anecdotes 
are abundant, but the most too well known for quota- 
tion : they tell of the cowardice of the citizens and the 
daring simplicity of the Highlanders. The capture of 
the city was without opposition. A burgher taking a 
walk saw a Highlander astride a gun, and said to him 
that surely he did not belong to the troops that were 
there yesterday. " Och no," quoth the Celt, "she pe re- 
lieved." According to all accounts, the invading army 
behaved well. An exception was the man who present- 
ed a musket at the head of a respectable shopkeeper, 
and when the trembling cit asked what he wanted, re- 
plied," A bawbee." This modestrequest being instant- 
ly complied with, they parted the best of friends. The 
demands of others did not rise beyond a pinch of snuff, 
and one hopes it was not required in an equally heroic 
manner. The day of Charles 'sentry,his father as King 
and himself as Regent were proclaimed at the Cross 
by the heralds in their antique garb and with their 
antique rites, and conspicuous among the attendant 
throng was the beautiful Mrs. Murray of Broughton 
on horseback with a drawn sword, covered with white 
121 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

cockades, the conspicuous Stuart emblem. With her 
it was the onesupreme moment of a life that was pres- 
ently obscured in shadows. Herhusband'sreputation 
as traitor still lay in the future. You remember how 
Scott's father, Whig as he was,dashed to pieces the cup 
that Murray had touched, so that neither he nor any of 
his family might ever use it ? At that same Cross, not 
many months after, the standards of the clans and of 
Charles were burnt by the hangman andTron men or 
sweeps by theorderof Cumberland, the least generous 
of foes. In the crowd there must have been many who 
had gazed on the other ceremonial. What a complete 
circuit fortune's wheel had made! Amidst the festivi- 
ties of Holyrood those things were not foreseen. Then 
came Prestonpans, with many a legend graveorgay. I 
will not repeat in detail those al most threadbare stories 
of the Highland estimation of the plunder: how that 
chocolate was Johnny Cope's salve, and the watch that 
stopped was a beast that had died, and a pack-sad- 
dle was a fortune, and so forth. Here is perhaps the 
quaintest anecdote of misadventure. Two volunteers, 
one of them destined to the bench as Lord Garden- 
stone, were detailed to watch the precincts of Mussel- 
burgh. They were bothconvivial "cusses": they knew 
every tavern in Edinburgh and every change-house in 
thefarandnearsuburbs: they remembered alittleden 
noted for its oysters and its sherry — possibly an odd 
combination, but the stomachs of young Edinburgh 
were invincible. At any rate, they made themselves 
merry. Butthere werelimbs of the law,active or" stic- 
kit," on the other side, and one as he prowled about 
espied the pair, and seized them without difficulty as 

122 



OF ROYALTY IN EDINBURGH 

they tried to negotiate that narrow bridge which still 
crosses the Esk at Musselburgh. They were dragged to 
the camp atDuddingston, and were about to be hang- 
ed as spies, but escaped through the intercession of 
still another lawyer, Colquhoun Grant, an adherent of 
the Prince, This same Colquhoun was a remarkable 
person, and distinguished himself greatly at Preston. 
He seized the horse of an English officer and pursued 
a great body of dragoons with awe-inspiring Gaelic 
curses. On,onwentthepanic-stricken mob, with Grant 
at their heels so close that he entered the Netherbow 
with them, and was just behind them at the Castle. 
He stuck his dirk into the gate, rode slowly down the 
High Street, ordered the Netherbow Port to bethrown 
open, and the frightened attendants were only too glad 
tosee theback of him. In after years he beat his sword 
to a ploughshare, or rather a pen, and became a highly 
prosperous Writer to the Signet of Auld Reekie. It is 
related by Kay that Ross of Pitcarnie, a less fortunate 
Jacobite, used to extract " loans " from him by artful 
references to his exploits at Preston and Falkirk. The 
cowardice of the regular troops is difficult to account 
for, but there was more excuse for the volunteers, of 
whom many comical stories are told. The best is that 
of John Maclurethe writing-master,who wound aquire 
of writing-paper round his manly bosom, on which he 
had written in his best hand, with all the appropriate 
flourishes,"ThisisthebodyofJohnMaclure,praygive 
it a Christian burial." However, when once the Prince 
was in, the citizens preserved a strict neutrality. Of 
sentimental Jacobites like Allan Ramsay we hear not 
a word : they lay low and said nothing. What could 
123 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

they do but wait upon time? Oneclergyman was bold 
enough, at any rate, namely, the Rev. Neil M'Vicar, 
incumbent of St, Cuthbert's, who kept on praying for 
King Georgeduring the whole time of the Jacobiteoc- 
cupation : " As for this young man who has come a- 
mong us seeking an earthly crown, we beseech Thee 
that he may obtain what is far better, a heavenly one." 
Archibald Stewart was then Provost, and he was said 
to have Jacobite leanings. His house was by the West 
Bow, and here, it was rumoured, he gave a secret ban- 
quet to Charles and some of his chiefs. The folk in the 
Castle heard of this, and sent down a party ofsoldiers to 
seize the Prince. Just as they were entering the house 
the guests disappeared into a cabinet, which was really 
an entrance to a trap stair, and so got off. The story is 
obviously false. Stewart was afterwards tried for neg- 
lect of duty during the Rebellion, and theproceedings, 
which lasted an inordinate time — the longest then on 
record — resulted in his triumphant acquittal. The 
Goverment had never omitted a damning piece of ev- 
idence like this — if the thinghad happened. One comic 
and instructive touch will pave my way to the next 
episode. A certain Mrs. Irvine died in Edinburgh in the 
year 1837 at the age of ninety-nine years or so, if the 
story be true which makes her a young child in the '45. 
She was with her nurse in front of the Palace, where 
a Highlander was on guard : she was much attracted 
byhis kilt.she advanced and seized it, and even pulled 
it up a little way. The nurse was in a state of terror, 
but the soldier only smiled and said a few kind words 
to the child. The moral of this story is that till the 
Highlanders took the city the kilt was a practically 

124 



OF ROYALTY IN EDINBURGH 

unknown garment to the folk in the capital. Sixyears 
before Mrs. Irvine died, to wit in 1831, she saw the 
setting up at the intersection of George Street and 
Hanover Street of the imposing statue by Chan- 
trey which commemorates the visit of George IV. to 
Scotland. This visit was from 14th August to 29th 
August 1822. Sir Walter Scott stage-managed the 
business, and Lockhart has pointed out how odd the 
whole thing was. Scott was a Lowlander, and surely 
better read than any other in the history of his coun- 
try, and who better knew that the history of Scotland 
is the history of the Lowlands, that Edinburgh was 
a Lowland capital, that the Highlands were of no ac- 
count, save as disturbing forces? Yet, blinded by the 
picturesque effect,he ran the show as if the Highlands 
and the Highlands alone were Scotland. Chieftains 
were imported thence, Scott was dressed as a High- 
lander, George was dressed as a Highlander, Sir Wil- 
liam Curtis, London alderman, was dressed as a High- 
lander: the whole thing trembledon the verge of burles- 
que. The silver St. Andrew's cross that Scott present- 
ed to the King when he landed had a Gaelic inscrip- 
tion! The King, not to be outdone, called for a bottle 
of Highland whisky and pledged Sir Walter thereand 
then, and Sir Walter begged the glass that had touch- 
ed the Royal lips, for an heirloom no doubt. He got it, 
thrust it into his coat-tail pocket, and presently re- 
duced it to fragments in a moment of forgetfulness by 
sitting on it. There, fortunately, the thing was left : 
they did not try to reconstitute it, after the fashion of 
the Portland Vase in the British Museum. George IV. 
had a fine if somewhat corpulent figure (Leigh Hunt 
125 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

wrote to Archibald Constableatan earlier period that 
he had suffered imprisonment for not thinking the 
Prince Regent slender and laudable),and no doubt in 
the Highland garb he made a "very pretty man." but 
the knight from London was even more corpulent. 
Byron sings in The Age of Bronze : 

" He caught Sir William Curtis in a kilt, 
While thronged the Chiefs of every Highland clan 
To hail their brother Vich Ian an Alderman." 

" Faar's yer speen?" (Where's your spoon ?) said an 
envious and mocking Aberdeen bailie, to the nosmall 
discomfiture of the London knight, as he strutted to 
and fro, believing that his costume was accurate in 
every detail, Lockhart hints that possibly Scott in- 
vented the story to soothe the King's wounded feel- 
ings. On the 24th of August the Provost and Magi- 
strates of Edinburgh entertained the King in Parlia- 
ment House to a great banquet. The King gave one 
toast, " The Chieftains and Clans of Scotland, and 
prosperity to the Land of Cakes." He also attended 
a performance of Rob Roy at the theatre. Carlyle 
was in Edinburgh at the time, and fled in horror from 
what he called the " efflorescence of the flunkeyisms," 
but everybody else seemed pleased, and voted the 
thing a great success. No doubt it gave official stamp 
to what is perhaps still the ordinary English view of 
Scotland. The odd thing is that Scott himself never 
grasped the Highland character — at least, where has 
he drawn one for us ? Rob Roy and Helen Macgregor 
and Fergus M'lvor and Flora M'lvor are mere crea- 
tures of melodrama, but the Bailie and Mattie and 
JeanieDeansand Davie Deans and the Antiquary and 

126 



OF ROYALTY IN EDINBURGH 

Edie Ochiltree and Andrew Fairservice and Mause 
and Cuddie Hedriggare real beings of flesh and blood. 
We have met them or their likes on the muir or at 
the close fit, or on the High Street or in the kirk. 

Tvventyyearspassed.and a British Sovereign again 
comes to Scotland. On the ist of September in 1842 
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert arrived at Granton. 
They duly proceeded towards Edinburgh. The Lord 
Provost and Bailies ought to have met them at Canon- 
mills to present the keys of the city, but they were 
"conspicuous by their absence," and the Royal party 
had to go to Dalkeith (like George the Fourth, they 
put up for the time in the Duke of Buccleuch's huge 
palace there). The local wits waxed merry ; they 
swore that my Lord Provost and his fellows had over- 
slept themselves, and a parody of a well-known song 
rang unpleasantly in civic ears: 

" Hey, Jamie Forrest, 
Are ye waukin' yet, 
Or are yer byles 
Snoring yet ? " 

However, the Royal party came specially from Dal- 
keith on a subsequent day, and received the keys at 
the Cross, and nobody even whispered " Anticlimax!" 



CHAPTER SIX 
MEN OF LETTERS. PART I 



CHAPTER SIX MEN OF LETTERS 

GEORGE BUCHANAN IS THE FIRST IN 
time as he is one of the first in eminence of Scots men 
of letters. Many wrote before him; among the kings, 
James I. certainly, James v.possibly,and even yet they 
are worth reading by others than students. There is 
Gawin Douglas, the Bishop, there is Buchanan's con- 
temporary, Knox, the Reformer, whose work is clas- 
sic, but they are not men of letters in the modern 
sense of the term. Buchanan is. Literature was his 
aim in life, and he lived by it indirectly if not directly. 
He is always to me a perplexing figure. How deep 
was his reforming zeal, how deep his beliefs, I cannot 
tell. I have read, I trust not without profit, Mr. Hume 
Brown's two careful volumes upon this great Scot, 
but he has not solved my doubts. The old scholar 
was too learned, too travelled, too cultured to be in har- 
mony with the Scotland of his day ; a certain aloofness 
marks him, a stern and heroic rather than a human and 
sympathetic figure. You remember how consistently 
the British Solomon hated his sometimeschoolmaster. 
Certain quaint anecdotes remain of their relations, 
but they have not to do with Edinburgh ; yet he died 
in the capital, and in one or two memories that linger 
round those last hours you seem just at the end to 
get in real touch with the man, with the human figure 
under the cloak. In 1581 James Melville, the diarist, 
with certain friend.s, visited him in Edinburgh. They 
found him teaching the young man that served him : 
A, b, ab, and so forth, " I see you are not idle," said 
one of the visitors in ironical astonishment, but he 
said it was better than idleness. They mentioned his 
magnum opus, his History of Scotland, the literary 
131 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

sensation of the day, if that day had literary sensa- 
tions. He stopped them. " I may da nae mair for 
thinking on another matter." " What is that ? " says 
Mr. Andro. " To die," quoth he. 

They went to the printer's to have a peep at the last 
sheets, just passing through the press, where they pres- 
ently spied some plain-spoken words like to be high- 
ly unpalatable at Court. Again they sought the old 
scholarand spoke to him about them. "Tell me, man," 
says he, "giff I havetould the truth." His visitors were 
of the same views as himself,and they could not shirk 
so plain an issue. "Yes,sir,"saysoneof them,"I think 
sae." Then says the old man sternly: "Let it remain, 
I will byde it, whatever happen. Pray, pray to God for 
me and let Him direct all." A " Stoick " philosopher, 
says Melville, and so he proved to the end, which came 
on the 28th of September 1582, in Kennedy's Close, 
thesecond close to the west of the Tron Kirk, and long 
since vanished. The day before he died he found that 
he had not enough money to pay for his funeral, but 
even this, he said, must be given to the poor, his body 
could fare for itself. Wisely provident for its own 
renown Edinburgh gave him a public funeral in the 
Greyfriars Churchyard. Tradition marked the spot 
for some time, and then a blacksmith put up a tablet 
at his own cost, but that too vanished, and one is not 
certain that the learned Dr. David Laing succeeded 
in fixing the true place. As we have seen, the Univer- 
sity of Edinburgh possesses what is believed to be his 
skull. When Deacon Brodie stole the mace, this tro- 
phy did not come under his hand, or it had surely 
gone too. 

132 




WILLIAM DRUMMOND OF HAWTHORNDEN 



f 



I 



MEN OF LETTERS IN EDINBURGH 

No one could be less like George Buchanan than 
VVilliamDrummondofHawthornden.bornthreeyears 
after the death of the other, save that he also was a 
man of letters, and that he also had intimate connec- 
tion with Edinburgh. Hawthornden is one of the 
beauty spots near the capital. Here Ben Jonson paid 
him, in 1618-19, one of the most famous visits in all 
the history of letters. The story is that Drummond 
was seated underahuge sycamore treewhenjonson's 
huge form hove in sight. The meeting of two poets 
needs must call forth a spark of poetry. 

" Welcome ! Welcome I royal Ben ! 
Thank ye kindly, Hawthornden ! " 
A little suspicious, you may think ! Where did Ben 
Jonson learn to address a Scots laird in this peculiar- 
ly Scots fashion ? After all, Ben's forbears came from 
Annandale,and who that has seen Hawthornden will 
doubt here was the ideal spot for such an encounter? 
Drummond was a devoted cavalier ; his death was 
caused or hastened by that of Charles i. He was bur- 
ied by his favourite river in the neighbouring church- 
yard of Lasswade. He has written his own epitaph : 
" Here Damon lies whose songs did sometime grace 
The wandering Esk — may roses shade the place." 
The town of Edinburgh honoured itself and the two 
poets by a banquet, and in the next century Allan 
Ramsay honoured the pair in a more appropriate 
fashion. There was once a huge pile of buildings 
called the Luckenbooths, between St. Giles' Church 
and the north side of the High Street. The building 
at the east end, afterwards known as Creech's Land, 
from the bookseller who did business there, and who 
133 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

was locally famous as the Provost and is still remem- 
bered as Burns's publisher, was occupied by Ramsay, 
and here, in 1725, he established the first circulating 
library ever known in Scotland. It would have been 
the last if godly Mr. Robert Wodrow and his fellows 
could have had their way, on account of" the villain- 
ous, profane, and obscene books of plays "it contained. 
You see they neither weighed nor minced words at 
the time. As sign Allan stuck over the door the heads 
of Drummond of Hawthornden and Ben Jonson. 

Scots literature was altogether on the side of the 
Crown, or one should rather say of the Stuarts. 
Who so stout a Jacobite as Allan, in words, at any 
rate ? In deeds it was quite otherwise : you never 
hear of him in the '45. His copious muse that could 
throw off a popular ballad on the instant was silent 
during that romantic occupation of Edinburgh by the 
young Ascanius. It was prudence that saved him. 
He was a Jacobite and so against the powers that 
were, but he took no hurt ; he was given to theatrical 
speculation and he did burn his fingers over an abor- 
tive business in that Carrubber's Close which has now 
a reputation far other, yet he came to no harm in the 
end, even if it be true that his prosperous painter son 
had finally to discharge some old debts. We have 
seen the view of the godly anent the books he sold 
or lent, and yet he dodged their wrath ; but I wonder 
most of all how he escaped a drunkard's death. Who 
knew betterthat grimy, witty, sordidly attractive, va- 
nished Edinburgh underworld of tavern and oyster- 
cellar — and worse ? The Gentle ShepJiei-d is all very 
well, and the Tea-Table Miscellany, with its senti- 

134 



MEN OF LETTERS IN EDINBURGH 

mental faking up of old Scots songs, is often very ill, 
though you cannot deny its service to Scots literature; 
but not there is the real Allan to be found. He minces 
and quibbles no longer when he sings the praises of 
umquhile Maggie Johnson, who kept that famous 
"howf" on Bruntsfield links. 

" There we got fou wi' little cost 
And muckle speed. 
Now wae worth Death ! our sport's a' lost 
Since Maggy's dead ! " 

Nor is his elegy on Luckie Wood of the Canongate 
less hearty. 

" She ne'er gae in a lawin fause, 
Nor stoups a' froath aboon the hause, 
Nor kept dow'd tip within her waws. 

But reaming swats. 
She ne'er ran sour jute, because 
It gees the batts." 

Unfortunately I cannot follow him in his lamen- 
tation over John Covvper or Luckie Spence, or dwell 
on the part those worthies played in old Edinburgh 
life. An'you be curious you must consult the original 
— unexpurgated. Let us quote our Allan on at least 
a quotable topic. 

"Then fling on coals and ripe the ribs. 
And beek the house baith but and ben, 
That mutchkin stoup it bauds but dribs, 
Then let's get in the tappit hen. 

Good claret best keeps out the cauld, 
And drives away the winter sune ; 

It makes a man baith gash and bauld, 
And heaves his saul beyond the mune." 

Among drinking-songs it would be hard to beat 
these lines for vigour. Did he quaff as heartily as he 
135 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

sang? I think not, probably his comrades shouted 
"pike yer bane" to no purpose (he would have trans- 
lated it to an English admirer as " no heel taps ") to 
this little " black-a-vised " man with his nightcap for 
head-dress, and his humorous, contented, appreciative 
smile. The learned Thomas Ruddiman, his fellow- 
townsman and fellow-Jacobite,used to say "The liquor 
willnotgodown "whenurgedtoyet deeperpotations; 
perhaps Allan escaped with some such quip, at least 
there is no touch of dissipation about his life, nay, a 
well-founded reputation for honest, continuous, and 
prosperous industry. In the end he built that famous 
house on the Castle Hill, called, from its quaint shape, 
the " Goose Pie." " Indeed, Allan, now that I see you 
in it I think the term is very properly applied," said 
Lord EHbank. The joke was obvious and inevitable, 
but for all that rather pointless,unless it be that Ram- 
say affected a little folly now and then to escape envy 
or a too pressing hospitality. However, he lived re- 
putably, died a prosperous citizen, and his is one of 
the statues you see to-day in the Princes Street Gar- 
dens. 

Although Buchanan was one of the greatest schol- 
ars of his time in Europe, he was not the founder of a 
race in minute points of classical scholarship, especi- 
ally in correct quantities of Latin syllables. Scotland 
was long lacking, perhaps the reason was the want of 
rich endowments, but Dr.ArchibaldPitcairne (I652- 
I7I3),thephysician,theJacobite, andthe scholar,had 
anotherreason: "If it had not been forthe stupid Pres- 
byterianism we should have been as good as the Eng- 
lish at longs and shorts." Oddly enough, the same 

136 



MEN OF LETTERS IN EDINBURGH 

complaint was echoed within the national Zion itself. 
Dalzel, Professor of Greek and Clerk to the General 
Assembly, was, according to Sydney Smith, heard to 
declare, " If it had not been for that Solemn League 
and Covenant we should have made as good longs 
and shorts as they." Before I pass from Pitcairne I 
quote a ludicrous story of which he is the hero. His 
sceptical proclivities were well known in Edinburgh, 
and he was rarely seen inside achurch. Hewas driven 
there, however, on one occasion by a shower of rain. 
Theaudiencewas thin, the sermon commonplace, but 
the preacher wept copiously and, as it seemed to Pit- 
cairne, irrelevantly. He turned to the only other oc- 
cupant of the pew, a stolid-visaged countryman, and 
whispered, " What the deevil gars the man greet? " 
" You would maybe greet yoursel'," was the solemn 
answer, " if ye was up there and had as little to say." 
I pass from one sceptic to another — one might say 
from one age to another. Edinburgh, in the latter part 
ofthe eighteenth century, according to Smollett's fam- 
ous phrase, was a " hotbed of genius." When Amyot, 
the King'sdentist,wasinEdinburghhesaid,as he stood 
at the Cross, that he could anyminute take fifty men 
of genius by the hand. Of this distinguished company 
David Hume was the chief. To what extent this his- 
torian, philosopher, sceptic, is now read, we need not 
inquire; he profoundly influenced European thought, 
and gave a system of religious philosophy the dead- 
liest blow it ever received. Hewas a prominent and in- 
teresting figure.and manyand various are the legends 
about him. What were his real religious beliefs, if 
he had any, remains uncertain. Hewas hand in glove 
137 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

with "Jupiter" Carlyle, Principal Robertson, Dr. Hugh 
Blair, and other leading moderates. They thought 
his scepticism was largely pretence, mere intellectual 
bounce, so to speak ; they girded at his unreasonable 
departure from the normal, and indeed Carlyle takes 
every opportunityofthrusting at him on this account. 
The Edinburgh folk regarded him with solemn hor- 
ror. The mother of Adam, the architect, who was 
also aunt to Principal Robertson, had much to say 
against the ' atheist,' whom she had never seen. Her 
son played her a trick. Hume was asked to the house 
and set down beside her. She declared " the large 
jolly man who sat next me was the most agreeable 
of them all." " He was the very atheist, mother," said 
the son, "thatyou were so much afraid of." "Oh," re- 
plied the lady, "bring him hereasmuch asyou please, 
for he is the most innocent, agreeable, facetious man 
I ever met with." His scepticism was subject for his 
friends' wit and his own. He heard Carlyle preach 
in Athelstaneford Church. " I did not think that such 
heathen moralitywouldhavepassed in East Lothian." 
One day when he sat in the Poker Club it was men- 
tioned that a clerk of Sir William Forbes, the banker, 
had bolted with ;6^900. When he was taken, there was 
found in one pocket Hume's Treatise 071 Human Na- 
ture d^ndm the other 'Eosion's Fou7-f old State of Man, 
this latter being a work of evangelical theology. His 
moderate friends presently suggested that no man's 
morality could hold out against the combination. Dr. 
Jardine of the Tron Kirk vigorously argued with him 
on various points of theology, suggested by Hume's 
NaturalHistory of Religion. Hisfriend,like mostfolk 

138 



MEN OF LETTERS IN EDINBURGH 

in Edinburgh, lived in a flat off a steep turnpike stair, 
down which Hume fell one night in the darkness. Jar- 
dine got a candle and helped the panting philosopher 
to his feet. Your old Edinburgh citizen never could re- 
sistthechance of a cutting remark. The divine was no 
exception. "Davy, I have often tell't ye that 'natural 
licht ' is no' sufficient." Like Socrates, he hid his wit 
under an appearance of simplicity. His own mother's 
opinion of him was: "Davy's a fine, good-natured cra- 
ter, but uncommon wake-minded." He had his weak- 
nesses, undoubtedly. Lord Saltoun said to him, refer- 
ring to his credulity, "David, man, you'll believe ony- 
thingexcept the Bible," but like other Scotsmen of his 
time he did not believe overmuch in Shakespeare. In 
1757 he thus addresses the author oi Douglas: "You 
possess the true theatrical genius of Shakespeare and 
Otway, refined from the barbarisms of the one, and the 
licentiousness of the other." Put beside this Burns's 
famous and fatuous line : " Here Douglas forms wild 
Shakespeare intoplan," and what can you do but shud- 
der ? When young, he had paid his court to a lady of 
fashion, and had met with scant courtesy. He was told 
afterwards that she had changed her mind. " So have 
I," said the philosopher. On another occasion he was 
more gallant. Crossing the Firth in a gale he said to 
Lady Wallace, who was in the boat, that they would 
soon be food for the fishes. "Will they eat you or me?" 
said the lady. "Ah," was the answer, " those that are 
gluttons will undoubtedly fall foul of me, but the epi- 
cure will attack your ladyship." David, like the fishes 
he described, was a bit of an epicure of the simplest 
kind. Hewouldsupwith his moderate friends in John- 
139 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

ny Dowie's tavern in Libberton's Wynd. On the table 
lay his huge door-key, wherewith his servant, Peggy, 
had been careful to provide him that she might not 
have to rise to let him in. After all, the friends did not 
sit very late, and the supper was some simple Scots 
dish — haddock, or tripe, or fluke, or pies, or it might 
be trout from the Nor' Loch, for Dowie's was famous 
for these little dainties. But the talk ! Would you 
match it in modern Edinburgh with all its pomp and 
wealth ? I trow not — perhaps not even in mightier 
London. 

The story is threadbare of how he was stuck in a 
bog under the Castle rock, and was only helped out 
by a passing Edinburgh dame on condition that he 
would say the Lord's Prayer and the Creed . More witty 
and more probable, though perhaps as well known, is 
the following : In the last years of his life he deserted 
the Old Town for the New. He had a house at the 
corner of St. Andrew Square, in a street as yet anony- 
mous. " St, David Street " chalked up a witty young 
lady, Miss Nancy Ord,daughter of Chief Baron Ord, 
and St. David Street it is to this day. His servant, in 
a state of indignation, brought him the news. " Never 
mind, lassie, many a better man has been made a saint 
without knowing it," said the placid philosopher. A 
female member of a narrow sect called upon him near 
the end with an alleged message from Heaven. " This 
is an important matter. Madam, we must take it with 
deliberation. Perhaps you had better get a little tem- 
poral refreshment before you begin. — Lassie, bring 
this young lady a glass of wine." As she drank, he in 
his turn questioned, and found that the husband was a 

140 



MEN OF LETTERS IN EDINBURGH 

tallow-chandler. How fortunate,for he wasoutof cand- 
les ! He gave an order, the woman forgot the message, 
and rushed offto fulfil it. Hume,youfancy,hadaquiet 
chuckle at his happy release. He was a great friend of 
Mrs. Mure, wife of Baron Mure, and was a frequent 
visitor at their house at Abbeyhill, near Holyrood. 
On hisdeath-bed he sent to bid her good-bye. Hegave 
her his History ofEiigland. " O, Dauvid, that's a book 
ye may weel be proud o' ! but before ye dee ye should 
burn a' yer wee bookies," to which the philosopher, 
with difficulty raisinghimselfon his arms,was only able 
toreplywithsomelittleshowofvehemence," What for 
should 1 burn a' my wee bookies ? " But he was too 
weak to argue such points ; he pressed the hand of 
his old friend as she rose to depart. When his time 
came he went quietly, contentedly, even gladly, re- 
gretted by saint and sceptic alike. If Carlyle girded 
at him, his intimate friend, Adam Smith, who might 
almost dispute his claim to mental eminence, pic- 
tured him forth in those days as the perfectly wise 
man, so far as human imperfections allowed. The 
piety or caution of his friends made them watch the 
grave for some eight nights after the burial. The vigil 
began at eight o'clock, when a pistol was fired, and 
candles in a lanthorn were placed on the grave and 
tended from time to time. Some violation was feared, 
for a wild legend of Satanic agency had flashed on the 
instant through the town. Hume has no monument 
in Edinburgh, crowded as she is with statues of lesser 
folk; but the accident of position and architecture has 
in this, as in other cases, produced a striking if unde- 
signed result. From one cause or another the valley 
141 



BOOK OFEDINBURGHANECDOTE 

is deeper than of yore, and the simple round tower 
that marks Hume's grave in the Calton burying-gro- 
und crowns a half-natural, half-artificial precipice. It 
is seen with effect from various points : thus you can- 
not miss it as you cross the North Bridge. Some mem- 
ory of this great thinker still projects itself into the 
trivial events of the modern Edinburgh day. 

Of Hume's friend and companion, Adam Smith, 
there are various anecdotes, more or less pointed, 
bearing on his oblivious or maybe contemptuous in- 
difference to the ordinary things of life. The best and 
best known tells how, as he went with shuffling gait 
and vacant look, a Musselburgh fishwifestared athim 
in amazement. " Hech,and heis weel put on tae." It 
seemed to her a pity that so well-dressed a simpleton 
was not better looked after. No amount of learning 
helps you in a crowded street. The wisdom of the 
ancients reports that Thales, wrapt in contemplation 
of the stars, walked into a well and thusended. Adam 
Smith's grave is in a dark corner of the Canongate 
Churchyard ; it is by no means so prominent as 
Hume's, nay, it takes some searching to discover. 
When I saw it last I found it neglected and unvisited 
alike by economic friends and foes. 

Among Hume's intimate cronies was Dr. Carlyle 
of In veresk, whose Autobiography "preserves for us the 
best record of the men of his time. " The grandest 
demigod I ever saw," says Sir Walter Scott, " com- 
monly called Jupiter Carlyle, from having sat more 
than once for the King of gods and men to Gavin 
Hamilton, and a shrewd, clever old carle he was, no 
doubt, but no more a poet than his precentor." This 

142 



MENOF LETTERS IN EDINBURGH 

last is apropos of some rhyming of Carlyle's as bad 
as rhymes can possibly be. In 1758 Carlyleand Prin- 
cipal Robertson and John Home were together in 
London ; they went down to Portsmouth and aboard 
the Ramilies, the warship in the harbour, where was 
Lieut. Nelson, a cousin of Robertson's. The honest 
sailor expressed his astonishment in deliciously comi- 
cal terms : " God preserve us ! what has brought the 
Presbytery of Edinburghhere? for damme me if there 
is not Willy Robertson, Sandie Carlyle, and John 
Home come on board." He soon had them down in 
the cabin, however, and treated them to white wine 
and salt beef. A jolly meal, you believe, for divines or 
sceptics, philosophers or men of letters or business, 
those old Edinburgh folk had a common and keen en- 
joyment of life. Certainly Carlyle had. Dr. Lindsay 
Alexander of Augustine Church, Edinburgh, remem- 
bered as a child hearing one of the servants say of 
this divine, " There he gaed, dacent man, as steady as 
a wa' after his ain share o' five bottles o' port." Home 
by this time was no longer a minister of the Church. 
He had thrown up his living in the previous year on 
account of the famous rowabout the once famous tra- 
gedy of Douglas. He still had a hankering after the 
General Assembly, where, if he could no longer sit as 
teaching elder, he might as ruling elder, because he 
was Conservator of Scots privileges at Campvere,but 
he was something else; he was lieutenant in the Duke 
of Buccleuch'sFencibles,and as such had a right to at- 
tirehimself in a gorgeous uniform, and it was so incon- 
gruously adorned that he took his seat in that rever- 
end house. Thecountry ministers stared with all their 
143 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

eyes, and one of them exclaimed, " Sure, that is John 
Home the poet ! What is the meaning of that dress?" 
" Oh," said Mr. Robert Walker of Edinburgh, "it is 
only the farce after the play." 

Eminent lawyers who are also industrious, and 
even eminent writers, were a feature of the time, but 
of them I have already spoken and there is little here 
to add. Monboddo had a remarkable experience in 
his youth; the very day, in I736,he returned to Edin- 
burgh from studying abroad he heard at nightfall a 
commotion in the street. In nightdress and slippers 
he stepped from the door and was borne along by a 
wild mob, not a few of whom were attired as strange- 
ly as himself. It was that famous affair of Captain 
Porteous, and, nolens volens, he needs must witness 
that sordid yet picturesque tragedy whose incidents, 
you are convinced, he never forgot, and often, as an 
old man, retailed to a newer generation. 

Like many another Scots lawyer, Lord Kameshad 
a keen love for the land, keener in his case because 
it had come to him from his forbears ; but his zeal 
was not always according to knowledge. One of the 
" fads " of the time was a wonderful fertilising pow- 
der. He told one of his tenants that he would be able 
to carry the manure of an acre of land in his coat 
pocket, " And be able to bring back the crop in yer 
waistcoat pouch ? " was thecrushing reply. He would 
have his joke, cruel and wicked, at any cost. To him 
belongs the well-nigh incredible story of a murder 
trial at Ayr in 1780. He knew the accused and had 
played chess with him. " That's checkmate for you, 
Matthie," he chuckled in ungodly glee when the ver- 

144 



i 



MEN OF LETTERS IN EDINBURGH 

diet was recorded. This story, by the way, used to be 
told of Braxfield, to whom it clearly does not belong, 
and one wished it did not belong to Karnes either. 
He spared himself as little as he did others. He lived 
in New Street, an early old-time improvement on the 
north side of the Canongate, and from there he went 
to the Parliament House in a sedan chair. One mor- 
ning, near the end, he was being helped into it, for he 
was old and infirm, when James Boswell crossed his 
path. Jamie was always in onescrapeor theother,but 
this time you fancy he had done something specially 
notorious. " I shall shortly be seeing your father,"said 
Kames (old Auchinleck had died that year (1782), as 
on the 27th of December did Kames himself) ; " have 
you any message for him ? Shall I tell him how you 
are getting on ? " You imagine his diabolical grin and 
Bozzy's confused answer. 

Beside these quaint figures Lord Hailes, with his 
ponderous learning, is a mere Dry-as-dust antiquary 
— the dust lies ever deeper over his many folios; of his 
finical exactness there still linger traditions in the 
Parliament House. It is said he dismissed a case be- 
cause a word was wrongly spelt in one of the numbers 
of process. Thus he earned himself a couplet in the 
once famous Court of Session Ga7'land. 

" To judge of this matter I cannot pretend, 
For justice, my Lords, wants an 'e' at the end." 

So wrote Boswell, himself, though he only partly 
belongs to Edinburgh, not the least interesting figure 
of our period. There is more than one story of him 
and Kames. The judge had playfully suggested that 
Boswell should write his biography ! How devoutly 
145 ^ 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

you wish he had. What an entertaining and famous 
book it had been ! but perhaps he had only it in him to 
do one biography, and we know how splendid that 
was. Poor Bozzy once complained to the old judge 
that even he, Bozzy himself, was occasionally dull. 
" Homer sometimes nods," said Kames in a reassur- 
ing tone, but with a grin that promised mischief. The 
other looked as pleased as possible till the old cynic 
went on : " Indeed, sir, it is the only chance you have 
of resembling him." Old Auchinleck, his father, was 
horrified at his son's devotion to Johnson. "Jamie has 
gaen clean gyte. What do you think, man? He's done 
wi' Paoli — he's afif wi' the land-loupin' scoondrel o' 
a Corsican. Whae's tail do ye think he has preened 
himsel' tae noo ? A dominie man — an auld dominie 
who keepit a schule and caa'ed it an Acaademy ! " In 
fact, the great Samuel pleased none of the Boswell 
clan except Boswell and Boswell's baby daughter. 
Auchinleck had many caustic remarks even after he 
had seen the sage: "He was only a dominie, and the 
worst-mannered dominie I ever met." So much for 
the father. The wife was not more favourable : " She 
had often seen a bear led by a man, but never till now 
had she seen a man led by a bear." Afterwards, when 
the famous biography was published, the sons were 
horribly ashamed both of it and of him. Bozzy has 
given us so much amusement — we recognise his in- 
imitable literary touch — that we are rather proud of 
and grateful to him ; but then, we don't look at the 
matter with the eyes of his relatives. 

Johnson was himself in Edinburgh. You remember 
how he arrived in February 1773 at Boyd's White- 

146 



MEN OFLETTERS IN EDINBURGH 

horse Inn off St. Mary's Wynd, not the more famous 
Inn of that name in the Whitehorse Close down the 
Canongate ; how angry he was with the waiter for lift- 
ing with his dirty paw the sugar to put in his lemonade ; 
how, in the malodorous High Street, he pleasantly re- 
marked to Boswell, " I smell you in the dark " ; how, 
as he listened at Holyrood to the story of the Rizzio 
murder, he muttered a line of the old haWad /o/inme 
Armstrong s last good-nigJit — " And ran him through 
the fair bodie." They took him to the Royal Infir- 
mary, and he noted the inscription " Clean your feet." 
" Ah," said he, " there is no occasion for putting this at 
the doors of your churches." The gibe was justified ; 
he had just looked in at St. Giles', then used for every 
strange civic purpose, and plastered and twisted about 
to every strange shape. Most interesting to me is that 
Sunday morning, 15th August 1773, when Bozzy and 
Principal Robertson toiled with him up the College 
Wynd to see the University, and passed by Scott's 
birthplace. The Wizard of the North was then two 
years old, and who could guess that his fame in after 
years would be greater than that of those three emi- 
nent men of letters put together? In this strange re- 
mote way do epochs touch one another. No wonder 
Bozzy 's relatives got tired of his last hobby, his very 
subject himself got tired. " Sir," said the sage, " you 
have but two topics, yourself and me. I am sick of 
both." Yet Bozzy knew what he was about when he 
stuck to his one topic. After his idol was gone, what 
was there for him but the bottle? It was one of the 
earliest recollections of Lord Jeffrey that he had as- 
sisted as a boy in putting the biographer to bed in a 
147 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

stateofabsolute unconsciousness. Next morningBos- 
vvell was told of the service rendered : he clapped the 
lad on the head, and complacently congratulated him. 
" If you go on as you've begun, you may live to be a 
Bozzy yourself yet." And so much bemused thegreat- 
est of biographers vanishes from our sight. 



I 



CHAPTER SEVEN 
MEN OF LETTERS. PART II 



CHAP. SEVEN MEN OF LETTERS 

TO TURN TO SOME LESSER FIGURES. 
Hugo Arnot, advocate, is still remembered as author 
of one of the two standard histories of Edinburgh. No 
man better known in the streets of the old capital : he 
was all length and nobreadth. That incorrigible joker, 
Harry Erskine, found him one daygnawingaspeldrin 
— a species of cured fish chiefly used to remove the 
trace of last night's debauch, and preparethe stomach 
for another bout. It is vended in long thin strips. 
"You are very like your meat," said the wit. The Edin- 
burgh populace called a house which for some time 
stood solitary on Moutries Hill, afterwards Bunkers 
Hill, where is now the Register House, " Hugo Ar- 
not," because the length was out of all proportion to 
the breadth. One day he found a fishwife cheapen- 
ing a Bible in Creech's shop ; he had some semi- 
jocular remarks, probably not in the best taste, at the 
purchase and the purchaser. " Gude ha mercy on 
us," said the old lady, " wha wad hae thocht that ony 
human-like cratur wud hae spokan that way ; but 
you," she went on with withering scorn — "a perfect 
atomy." He was known to entertain sceptical opin- 
ions, and he was pestered with chronic asthma, and 
panted and wheezed all day long. " If I do not get 
quit of this," he said, " it will carry me off like a roc- 
ket." "Ah, Hugo, my man," said an orthodox but un- 
kind friend, "but in a contrary direction." He could 
joke at his own infirmities. A Gilmerton carter pass- 
ed him bellowing " sand for sale " with a voice that 
made the street echo. " The rascal," said the exasper- 
ated author, " spends as much breath in a minute as 
151 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

would serve me for a month." Like other Edinburgh 
folk he migrated to the New Town, to Meuse Lane, 
in fact, hard by St. Andrew Square. What with his 
diseases and other natural infirmities, Hugo's temper 
was of the shortest. He rang his bell in so violent a 
manner that a lady on the floor above complained. 
He took to summoning his servant by firing a pistol ; 
the remedy was worse than the disease. The caustic, 
bitter old Edinburgh humour was in the very bones 
of him. He was, as stated, an advocate by profession, 
and his collection of criminal trials, by the way, is still 
an authority. Once he was consulted in order that he 
might help in some shady transaction. He listened 
with the greatest attention. " What do you suppose 
me to be ? " said he to the client. " A lawyer, an advo- 
cate," stammered the other. " Oh, I thought you took 
me for a scoundrel," sneered Arnot as he showed the 
proposed client the door. A lady who said she was 
of the same name asked how to get rid of an importu- 
nate suitor. " Why, marry him," said Hugo testily. "I 
would see him hanged first," rejoined the lady. The 
lawyer's face contorted to a grin. " Why, marry him, 
and by the Lord Harry he will soon hang himself" 
All very well, but not by such arts is British Themis 
propitiated. Arnot died in November 1786 when he 
was not yet complete thirty-seven. He had chosen 
his burial-place in the churchyard at South Leith, and 
was anxious to have it properly walled in ere the end, 
which he clearly foresaw, arrived. It was finished just 
in time, and with a certain stoical relief this strange 
mortal departed to take possession. 

Another well-known Edinburgh character was 

152 




HENRY MACK.ENZIE, "THE MAN OF FEELING" 
From an Engraving after Andrew Gcddes 



MEN OFLETTERS IN EDINBURGH 

Henry Mackenzie. Born in 1745 he lived till 183 1, and 
connects the different periods of Edinburgh literary 
splendour. His best service to literature was his early 
appreciation of Burns, but in his own time the Man 
of Feeling was one of the greatest works of the day, 
and the Man of the World And fulia de Roubigne io\- 
lowed not far behind. To this age all seems weak, 
stilted, sentimental to an impossibledegree, but Scott 
and Lockhart, to name but these, read and admired 
with inexplicable admiration. In ordinary life Mac- 
kenzie was a hard-headed lawyer, and as keen an at- 
tendant at a cock main, it was whispered, as Deacon 
Brodie himself. He told his wife that he'd had a glor- 
ious night. "Where?" she queried. " Why, at a splen- 
did fight." " Oh Harry, Harry," said the good lady, 
"you have only feeling on paper." 

Tobias Smollett, though not an Edinburgh man, 
had some connection with the place. His sister, Mrs. 
Telfer, lived in the house yet shown in theCanongate, 
at the entrance to St. John Street. Here, after long 
absence, his mother recognised him by his smile. Ten 
years afterwards he again went north, and again saw 
his mother ; he told her that he was very ill and that 
he was dying. " We'll no' be very lang pairted onie 
way. If you gang first, I'll be close on your heels. If 
I lead the way, you'll no' be far ahint me, I'm think- 
ing," said this more than Spartan parent. But when 
you read the vivacious Mrs. Winifred Jenkins in the 
Expedition of Humphrey Clinker, you recognise how 
good a thing it was for letters that Smollett visited 
Edinburgh. 

It is a little odd, but I have no anecdotes to tell 
153 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

(the alleged meeting between him and old John Brown 
in Haddington Churchyard is a wild myth) of that 
characteristic Edinburgh figure, Robert Fergusson, 
the Edinburgh poet, the native and the lover. He 
struck a deeper note than Allan Ramasy, has a more 
intimate touch than Scott, is scarcely paralleled by 
R. L. Stevenson, who half believed himself a reincar- 
nation of " my unhappy predecessor on the causey 
of old Edinburgh " . . . " him that went down — my 
brother, Robert Fergusson." 

" Auld Reekie ! thou'rt the canty hole, 

A bield for mony a cauldrife soul 

Wha' snugly at thine ingle loll 
Baith warm and couth. 

While round they gar the bicker roll 
To vveet their mouth." 
There you see the side of Edinburgh that most 
attracted him. He was no worse than his fellows per- 
haps, but perhaps he could not stand what they stood. 
It is said that he once gave as an excuse, "Oh,sirs, any- 
thing to forget my poor mother and these aching 
fingers." As Mr. H. G. Graham truly says : " It was a 
poor enough excuse for forgetting himself." He used 
to croon over that pleasing little trifle. The Bij-ks of 
Invermay, in Lucky Middlemist's or elsewhere, and 
dream of trim rural fields he did not trouble to visit. 
I have no heart to repeat the melancholy story of his 
lonely death in the Schelles, hard by the old Darien 
House at the Bristo Port in 1774, at the age oftwenty- 
four. His interest is as a ghost from the Edinburgh 
underworld, you catch a glimpse of a more vicious 
Grub Street. There must have been a circle of broken 
professional men of all sorts, more or less clever, all 

154 



MEN OFLETTERS IN EDINBURGH 

needy, all drunken and ready to do anything for a 
dram. What a crop of anecdotes there was ! But no 
one gathered, and the memory of it passed away with 
the actors. Local history that chronicled the oddities 
of Kames or Monboddo refused to chronicle the 
pranks of lewd fellows of the baser sort. Only when 
the wastrel happened to be a genius do we piece to- 
gether in some sort his career. Whatever one says 
about Fergusson, you never doubt his genius. 

It is curious how very occasional is the anecdote of 
this Caledonian Grub Street. Here is rather a charac- 
teristic straw which the stream of time has carried 
down regardinga certain drudge called Stewart. One 
night, homeless and houseless, he staggered into the 
ash pit of a primitive steam-engine, and lay down 
to rest. An infernal din aroused him from his drunk- 
en slumber ; he saw the furnace opened, grimy black 
figures stoking the fire and raking the bars of the 
enormous grate, whilst iron rods and chains clanked 
around him with infernal din. A tardily awakened 
conscience hinted where he was, " Good God, has 
it come to this at last?" he growled in abject terror. 
Another anecdote, though of a later date, is told in 
Lockhart's Life of Scott. Constable, the Napoleon 
of publishers, called the crafty in the Chaldean Manu- 
script, is reported " a most bountiful and generous 
patron to the ragged tenants of Grub Street." He 
gave stated dinners to his " own circle of literary 
serfs," At one ofthe.se David Bridges, "tailor in or- 
dinary to this northern potentate," acted as croupier. 
According to instructions he brought with him a new 
pair of breeches, and for these Alister Campbell and 
155 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

another ran a race, and yet this same Campbell was 
editor o{ Albyns Anthology, 1 8i6, to which Scott con- 
tributed Jock a' Hazeldean, Pibroch of Donald Dhu^ 
and better than any, that brilliant piece of extravag- 
ance, Donald Caird's come again. Perhaps the story 
isn't true, but it is at least significant that Lockhart 
should tell it. 

One glittering Bohemian figure, though he was 
much greater and much else, lights up for us those Ed- 
inburgh taverns, Johnnie Dowie's and the rest, those 
Edinburgh clubs, the Crochallan Fencibles and the 
others,that figure is Robert Burns. His winter of 1 786- 
1787 in the Scots capital is famous. To us, more than 
a century after, it still satisfiestheimagination, a strik- 
ing, dramatic, picturesque appearance. On the whole, 
Edinburgh, not merely her great but common men, 
received him fitly. One day in that winter Jeffrey was 
standing in the High Street staring at a man whose 
appearance struck him, he could scarce tell why. A 
person standing at a shop door tapped him on the 
shoulder and said : " Ay, laddie, ye may weel look at 
that man ; that's Robert Burns." He never saw him 
again. His experience in this was like that of Scott ; 
but you are glad at any rate that Burns and Scott did 
meet, else had that Edinburgh visit wanted its crown- 
ing glory. Scott was then fifteen. He saw Robin in 
Professor Fergusson's house at Sciennes. It was a 
distinguished company, and Scott, always modest, 
held his tongue. There was a picture in the room of 
a soldier lying dead in the snow, by him his dog and 
his widow with his child in her arms. Burns was so 
affected at the idea suggested by the picture that " he 

156 



MEN OF LETTERS IN EDINBURGH 

actually shed tears," like the men of the heroic age, 
says Andrew Lang ; he asked who wrote the lines 
which were printed underneath, and Scott alone re- 
membered that they were from the obscure Lang- 
horne. " Burns rewarded me with a look and a word 
which, though a mere civility, I then received, and still 
recollect, with very great pleasure." Scott goes on to 
describe Burns as like the " douce guid man who held 
his own plough." Most striking was his eye : " It was 
large and of a dark cast and glowed (I say literally 
glowed) when he spoke with feeling or interest. I 
never saw such another eye in a human head, though 
I have seen the most distinguished men in my time." 
Whether Scott was right in thinking that Burns talk- 
ed with " too much humility," I will not discuss. We 
know what Robin thought of the " writer chiel." The 
most pleasing result of his Edinburgh visit, as it is to- 
day still the most tangible, was the monument, taste- 
ful and sufficient, which he put over Fergusson's grave 
in the Canongate Churchyard. R.L.S., by the way, 
from his distant home in the South Seas, was anxious 
that if neglected it should be put in order. I do not 
think it has ever been neglected. I have seen it often 
and it was always curiously spick and span : these 
vates have not lacked pious services at the hands of 
their followers. Scott was not so enthusiastic an ad- 
mirer, but he knew his Fergusson well and quotes him 
with reasonable frequency. When Fergusson died 
Scott was only three years old. Edinburgh was then 
a town of little space, and the unfortunate poet may 
have seen the child, but he could not have noticed 
him, and we have no record. 
157 



BOOK OF EDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

Just as the last half of the eighteenth century may be 
said to group itself round Hume, so the first half of 
the nineteenth has Scott for its central figure. I have 
spoken ofhis birthplace in the College Wynd. In 1825 
he pointed out its site to Robert Chambers. "It would 
have been more profitable to have preserved it," said 
Chambers in a neat compliment to Scott's rapidly 
growing fame. " Ay, ay," said Sir Walter, " that is very 
well, but I am afraid that I should require to be dead 
first, and that would not have been so comfortable, 
you know." Thus, with good sense and humour, Scott 
turned aside the eulogium which perhaps he thought 
too strong. How modest he was ! He frankly, and 
justly, put himself as a poet below Byron and Burns, 
and as for Shakespeare, " he was not worthy to loose 
his brogues." His sense and good-nature helped to 
make him popular with his fellows. Hogg, the Ettrick 
Shepherd, was a possible exception. Scott did him 
good, yet after Scott's death he wrote some nasty 
things. In truth, he had an unhappy nature, since he 
was somewhat rough to others and yet abnormally 
sensitive. Lockhart tells a story of Hogg's visit to 
Scott's house in Castle Street, where he was asked to 
dinner. Mrs. Scott was not well, and was lying on a 
sofa. The Shepherd seized another sofa, wheeled it 
towards her, and stretched himself at full length on it. 
" I thought I could never do wrong to copy the lady 
of the house." His hands, we are told, had marks of 
recent sheep-shearing, of which the chintz bore leg- 
ible traces ; butthe guest noted not this; he ate freely, 
and drank freely, and talked freely ; he became grad- 
ually more and more familiar ; from " Mr. Scott " he 

158 



MEN OFLETTERS IN EDINBURGH 

advanced to " Shirra " and thence to " Scott," " Wal- 
ter," " Wattie," until at supper he fairly convulsed the 
whole party by addressing Mrs. Scott as "Charlotte." 
I think, however, that Scott was too much of a gentle- 
man ever to have told this story. " The Scorpion," as 
the CJialdeaji Manuscript named Lockhart,had many 
good qualities, but was, after all, a bit of a " superior 
person." 

Scott's connection with John Leyden was alto- 
gether pleasant, and no one mourned more sincerely 
over the early death in the East of that indefatigable 
poet and scholar, Leyden was of great assistance to 
Scott in collecting material for \\\'s, Border Minstrelsy. 
Once there was a hiatus in an interesting old ballad, 
when Leyden heard of an ancient reported able to re- 
cite the whole thing complete. He walked between 
forty and fifty miles and back again, turning the re- 
covered verses over in his mind, and as Scott was 
sitting after dinner with some company " a sound was 
heard at a distance like that of the whistling of a tem- 
pest through the torn rigging of a vessel which scuds 
before it." It was Leyden who presently burst into 
the room, chanting the whole of the recovered bal- 
lad. Leyden and Thomas Campbell had a very pret- 
ty quarrel about something or other. When Scott re- 
peated to Leyden the poem of Hohen/indett, the lat- 
ter burst out, " Dash it, man, tell the fellow that I hate 
him ; but, dash him, he has written the finest verses 
that have been published these fifty years." Scott, 
thinking to patch up a peace, repeated this to Camp- 
bell. He only said," Tell Leyden that I detest him, but 
I know the value of his critical approbation." Well 
159 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

he might! Leyden once repeated to Alexander Mur- 
ray, the philologist, the most striking lines in Camp- 
bell's LochieL adding, " That fellow, after all, we may 
say, is King of us all, and has the genuine root of the 
matterinhim." Campbell's versestilllives,butourday 
would not place it so high. I have spoken of Scott's 
modesty, also he was quiet under hostile criticism. 
Jeffrey had some hard things to say of Marmion in 
the Edinburgh Review, and immediately after dined 
in Castle Street. There was no change in Scott's 
demeanour, but Mrs. Scott could not altogether re- 
strain herself. "Well, good-night, Mr. Jeffrey. They 
tell me you have abused Scott in the Revieiv, and I 
hope Mr. Constable has paid you very well for writing 
it," which was rather an odd remark. As that Highland 
blue-stocking, Mrs. Grant of Laggan, observed, " Mr. 
Scott always seems to me like a glass through which 
the rays of admiration pass without sensibly affect- 
ing it, but the bit of paper that lies beside it will pre- 
sently be in a blaze — and no wonder." Scott was 
" truest friend and noblest foe." In June 1821, as he 
stood by John Ballantyne's open grave in the Canon- 
gate Churchyard,theday,whichhad been dark,bright- 
ened up, and the sun shone forth, he looked up and 
said with deep feeling to Lockhart, " I feel as if there 
will be less sunshine for me from this time forth." 
And yet through the Ballantynes Scott was involved 
in those reckless speculations which led to the cata- 
strophe of his life. His very generosity and noble- 
ness led him into difficulties. " I like Scott's ain bairns, 
but Heaven preserve me from those of his fathering," 
says Constable. As for those " ain bairns," especially 

160 



MEN OFLETTERS IN EDINBURGH 

those Waverley Novels, which are a dear possession 
to each of us, there are anecdotes enough. We know 
the speed and ease, in truthShakespearean, with which 
he threw off the best of them, yet to the outsider he 
seemed hard at work. In June 1814 a party of young 
bloods were dining in a house in George Street, at 
right angles with North Castle Street. A shade over- 
spread the face of the host. "Why?" said the narrator. 
"There is a confounded hand in sight of me here 
which has often bothered me before, and now it won't 
let me fill my glass with a good will. Since we sat 
down I have been watching it — it fascinates my eye 
— it never stops ; page after page is finished and 
thrown on that heap of MS., and still it goes on un- 
wearied, and so it will be till candles are brought in, 
and God knows how long after that ; it is the same 
every night." It was the hand of Walter Scott, and 
in the evenings of three weeks in summer it wrote the 
last two volumes of Waverley (there were three in all). 
Whatever impression the novels make upon us has 
been discounted before we have read them, but when 
they were appearing, when to the attraction of the 
volumes themselves was added the romance of mys- 
tery, when the Wizard of the North was still " The 
Great Unknown," then was the time to enjoy a Wav- 
erley. James Ballantyne lived in St. John Street, 
then a good class place off the Canongate. He was 
wont to give a gorgeous feast whenever a new Wav- 
erley was about to appear. Scott was there, but he 
and the staider members of the company left in good 
time, and then there were broiled bones and a mighty 
bowl of punch, and James Ballantyne was persuad- 
161 L 



BOOK OF EDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

ed to produce the proof-sheets, and, with a word of 
preface, give the company the liver wing of the forth- 
coming literary banquet. Long before the end the 
secret was an open secret, but it was only formally 
divulged, as we all know, at the Theatrical Fund din- 
ner, on Friday the 23rd February 1827. Among the 
company was jovial Patrick Robertson," a mighty in- 
carnate j oke." When Peveril of the Peak appeared he 
applied the name to Scott from the shape of his head 
as he stood chatting in the Parliament House, "better 
that than Peter o' the Painch," was the not particularly 
elegant but very palpable retort at Peter's rotundity. 
At the banquet Scott sent him a note urging him to 
confess something too. "Why not the murder of Beg- 
bie ? " (the porter of the British Linen Company Bank, 
murderedundermysteriouscircumstancesin Novem- 
ber 1 806, in TweeddaleClose,intheHigh Street). Im- 
mediately after, the farce oi High Life Below Stairs 
was played in the theatre. A lady's lady asked who 
wrote Shakespeare? One says Ben Jonson, another 
Finis. " No," said an actor, with a most ingenious 
" gag," " it is Sir Walter Scott ; he confessed it at a 
public meeting the other day." 

Most of the literary men of the time were in two 
camps. Either they wrote for the Edinburgh Review, 
or for Blackwood's Magazine, occasionally for both. 
The opponents knew each other, and were more or less 
excellent friends, though they used the most violent 
language. Jeffrey was the great light on the Edin- 
burgh ; he was described by Professor Wilson's wife as 
" a horrid little man, but held in as high estimation 
here as the Bible." Her husband, with Lockhart and 

162 



MEN OF LETTERS IN EDINBURGH 

Hogg, were the chief writers for the Magazine. The 
first number of that last, as we now know it, contain- 
ed the famous CJialdca}i Manuscript,va which uproar- 
ious fun was made of friends and foes, under the guise 
of a scriptural parable. They began with their own 
publisher and real editor. " And his name was as it 
had been the colour of ebony, and his number was the 
number of a maiden when the days of the year of her 
virginity have expired." In other words, Mr. Black- 
wood of 17 Princes Street. Constable, the publisher, 
was the "crafty in council," and he had a notable horn 
in his forehead that " cast down the truth to the 
ground." This was the Review. Professor Wilson was 
" the beautiful leopard from the valley of the plane 
trees," referring to the Isle of Palms, the poem of which 
Christopher North was the author. Lockhart was the 
' scorpion which delighteth to sting the faces of men." 
Hogg was " the great wild boar from the forests of 
Lebanon whetting his dreadful tusks for the battle." It 
was the composition of these last three spirits, and is 
described by Ay toun as " a mirror in which we behold 
literary Edinburgh of 18 17, translated into mythol- 
ogy." It was chiefly put together one night at 53 
Queen Street, amidst uproarious laughter that shook 
the walls of the house, and made the ladies in the 
room above send to inquire in wonder what the gen- 
tlemen below were about. Even the grave Sir Will- 
iam Hamilton was of the party; he contributed a verse, 
and was so amused at his own performance that he 
tumbled off his chair in a fit of laughter. Perhaps the 
personalities by which it gained part of its success 
were not in the best taste, but never was squib so suc- 
163 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

cessful. Itshook the townwithrageand mirth. After 
well-nigh a century, though some sort of a key is ess- 
ential, you read it with a grin ; it has a permanent, if 
small, place in the history of letters. Yet Wilson con- 
tributed to the EdinburghX "John," said his mother 
when she heard it, " if you turn Whig, this house is no 
longer big enough for us both." There was no fear of 
oithat, however. 

The most engaging stories of Christopher North 
tell of his feats of endurance. After he was a grave pro- 
fessor he would throw off his coat and tackle success- 
fully with his fists an obstreperous bully. He would 
walk seventy miles in the waking part of twenty-four 
hours. Once, in the braes of Glenorchy, he called at a 
farmhouse at eleven at night for refreshment. They 
brought him a bottle of whisky and a can of milk, 
which he mixed and consumed in two draughts from a 
huge bowl. Hewas called to the Scots bar in i8i5,and 
from influence, or favour, agents at first sent him cases. 
He afterwards confessed that when he saw thepapers 
on his table, he did not know what to do with them. 
But he speedily drifted into literature, wherein he 
made a permanent mark. We have all dipped into 
that huge mineof witand wisdom, the Nodes Ambros- 
iancB. You would say of him, and you would of Scott, 
they were splendid men, their very faults and excess- 
es lovable. What a strange power both had over ani- 
mals ! As in the case of Queen Mary, their servants 
were ever their faithful and devoted friends. Wilson 
kept a great number of dogs. Rover was a special fav- 
ourite. As the animal was dying, Wilson bent over it, 
" Rover, my poor fellow, give me your paw," as if he 

164 



MEN OF LETTERS IN EDINBURGH 

had been taking leave of a man. When Camp died, 
Scott reverently buried him in the back garden of his 
Castle Street house; his daughter noted the deep 
cloud of sorrow on her father's face. Maida is with 
him on his monument as in life. Wilson kept sixty- 
two gamebirds all at once; they made a fearful noise. 
"Did they never fight? "queried his doctor. "No," was 
the answer; "but put a hen amongst them, and I will 
not answer for the peace being long observed. And so 
it hath been since the beginning of the world." These 
gifted men played each other tricks of the most impish 
nature. Lockhart once made a formal announcement 
of Christopher North's sudden death, with a panegyric 
upon his character in the Weekly Journal; true, he con- 
fined it to a few copies, but it was rather a desperate 
method of jesting. Patrick Robertson, as Lord Rob- 
ertson, a Senator of the College of Justice, published 
a volume of poems. This was duly reviewed in the 
Quarterly, which Lockhart edited, and a copy sent to 
the author; it finished off with this mad couplet: 
" Here lies the peerless paper lord, Lord Peter, 
Who broke the laws of God and man and metre." 

The feelings of" Peter," as his friends always called 
Robertson, may be imagined. True, it was the only 
copy of the Revieiv'CadX contained the couplet : it must 
have been some time before the disturbed poet found 
out. Yet " Peter " was a " jokist " of a scarcely less des- 
perate character. At a dinner-party an Oxford don 
was parading his Greek erudition, to the boredom of 
the whole company. Robertson gravely replied to 
some proposition, " I rather think, sir, Dionysius of 
Halicarnassus is againstyou there." " I beg your par- 
165 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

don,"said the don quickly, " Dionysius did not flour- 
ish for ninety years after that period." " Oh," rejoined 
Patrick, with an expression of face that must be imag- 
ined, " I made a mistake; I meant Thaddeus of War- 
saw." There was no more Greek erudition that night. 
This fondness for a jest followed those men into every 
concern of life. One of Wilson's daughters came to 
her father in his study and asked, with appropriate 
blushes, his consent to her engagement to Professor 
Aytoun. He pinned a sheet of paper to her back, and 
packed her off to the next room, where her lover was. 
They were both a little mystified till he read the in- 
scription : " With the author's compliments." 

De Quincey spent the last thirty years of his life 
mainly in Edinburgh. His grave is in St. Cuthbert's 
Churchyard. He seems a strange, exotic figure, for 
his literary interests, at any rate, were not at all Scots. 
Once he paid a casual visit to Gloucester Place, where 
Wilson lived. It was a stormy night, and he stayed 
on — for about a year. His hours and dietary were 
peculiar,but he was allowed to do exactly as he liked. 
"Thomas de Sawdust," as W.E. Henley rather cruel- 
ly nicknamed him, excited the astonishment of the 
Scots cook by the magnificent way in which he order- 
ed a simple meal. " Weel, I never heard the like o' 
that in a' my days ; the bodie has an awfu' sicht o' 
words. If it had been my ain maister that was want- 
ing his denner he would ha' ordered a hale tablefu' 
in little mair than a waff o' his han', and here's a' this 
claver aboot a bit mutton no bigger than a preen. Mr. 
De Quinshay would mak' a gran' preacher, though 
I'm thinking a hantle o' the folk wouldna ken what 

1 66 



MEN OFLETTERS IN EDINBURGH 

he was driving at." During most of the day De Ouin- 
cey lay in a stupor; the early hours of the next morn- 
ing were his time for talk. The Edinburgh of that 
time was still a town of strong individualities, brill- 
iant wits, and clever talkers, but when that weird voice 
began, the listeners, though they were the very flower 
of the intellect of the place, were content to hold their 
peace: all tradition lies,or this strange figure washere 
the first of them all. 

In some ways it was a curious and primitive time, 
certainly none of these men was a drunkard, but they 
all wrote as if they quaffed liquor like the gods of 
the Norse mythology, and with some of them practice 
conformed to theory, whilst fists and sticks were quite 
orthodox modes of settling disputes. Even the grave 
Ebony was not immune. A writer in Glasgow, one 
Douglas, was aggrieved at some real or fancied refer- 
ence in the Magazine. He hied him to Edinburgh,and 
as Mr. Blackwood was entering his shop, he laid a 
horsewhip in rather a half-hearted fashion, it would 
seem, about his shoulders. Then he made off. The edi- 
tor publisher forthwith procured a cudgel,and luckily 
discovered his aggressor on the point of entering the 
Glasgow coach ; he gave him a sound beating. As 
nothing more is heard of the incident, probably both 
sides considered honour as satisfied. How difficult to 
imagine people of position in incidents like this in 
Edinburgh of to-day ; but I will not dwell longer on 
them and their likes, but move on to another era. 

" Vii'gilium viditantum" very happilyquoted Scott, 
the only time he ever saw (save for a casual street 
view) and spoke with Burns. One wishes that there 
167 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

was more to be said of Scott and Carlyle. Carlyle 
was a student at Edinburgh, and passed the early- 
years of his literary working life there. He saw Scott 
on the street many a time and earnestly desired a 
more intimate knowledge. This meeting would have 
been as interesting as that, but it was not to be. Never 
was fate more ironical, nay, perverse. Goethe was the 
friend and correspondent of both, and it seemed to him 
at Weimar an odd thing that these men, both stud- 
ents of German literature, both citizensof Edinburgh, 
should not be personal friends. He did everythinghe 
could. Through Carlyle he sent messages and gifts 
to Scott, and these Carlyle transmitted in a modest 
and courteous note (13th April 1828). Alas! it was 
after the deluge. Scott, with the bravest of hearts, yet 
with lessening physical and mental power, was fight- 
ing that desperate and heroic battle we know so well. 
The letter went unanswered, and they never met. 
Less important people were kinder. Jeffrey told Car- 
lyle he must give him a lift, and they were great friends 
afterwards. In 181 5 for the first time he met Edward 
Irving in a room off Rose Street. The latter asked a 
number of local questions about Annan, which sub- 
ject did not interest the youthful sage at all ; finally, 
he professed total ignorance and indifference as to the 
history and condition of some one's baby. "You seem 
to know nothing," said Irving very crossly. The an- 
swer was characteristic. " Sir, by what right do you 
try my knowledge in this way ? I have no interest to 
inform myself about the births in Annan, and care 
not if the process of birth and generation there should 
cease and determine altogether." Carlyle studied for 

168 



MEN OF LETTERS IN EDINBURGH 

the Scots kirk, but he was soon very doubtful as to his 
vocation. In iSi/hecamefromKirkcaldytoputdown 
his name for the theological hall, " Old Dr. Ritchie was 
'notathome'when I called toentermyself. 'Good,' said 
I, ' let the omen be fulfilled,' " and he shook the dust 
of the hall from his feet for evermore. Possibly he mut- 
tered something about, "Hebrew old Clo "; if he did, 
his genius for cutting nicknames carried him away. 
Through it all no one had greater reverence for the 
written Word. Carlyle, for good or for ill, was a Calvi- 
nist at heart. In the winter of 1823 he was sore beset 
with the "fiend dyspepsia." He rode from his father's 
house all the way to Edinburgh to consult a special- 
ist. The oracle was not dubious, " It was all tobacco, 
sir; give up tobacco." But could he give it up? "Give 
it up, sir? " he testily replied. " I can cut off my hand 
with an axe if that should be necessary," Carlyle let 
it alone for months, but was not a whit the better ; 
at length, swearing he would endure the " diabolical 
farce and delusion " no longer, he laid almost violent 
hands on a long clay and tobacco pouch and was as 
happy as it was possible for him to be. Perhaps the 
doctor was right after all. 

Up to the middle of the last century a strange per- 
sonage called Peter Nimmo, or more often Sir Peter 
Nimmo, moved about the classes of Edinburgh Uni- 
versity, and had done so for years. Professor Masson 
in Edmbiirgh Sketches and Memories has told with 
his wonted care and accuracy what it is possible to 
knowof thesubject. He was most probably a " stickit 
minister" who hung about the classes year after year, 
half-witted no doubt, but with a method in his mad- 
169 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

ness. He pretended or believed ornotunwillinglywas 
hoaxed into the belief that he was continually being 
asked to the houses of professors and others, where not 
seldom he was received and got some sort of entertain- 
ment. Using Professor Wilson's nameasapassporthe 
achieved an interview with Wordsworth, who describ- 
ed him as "a Scotch baronet, eccentric in appearance, 
but fundamentally oneof the mostsensible men hehad 
evermetwith." Itwasshrewdlysuspected thathesim- 
plyheld his tongue, and allowed Wordsworthtodo all 
the talking ; a good listener is usually found a highly 
agreeable person. He tickled Carlyle's sense of hu- 
mour,andwasmadethesubjectofapoembythelatter 
in Erasers Magazine. It was one of the earliest and 
one of the very worst things that Carlyle ever did. 

I note in passing that Peter Nimmo had a prede- 
cessor or contemporary, John Sheriff by name, who 
died in August 1844 in his seventieth year. He was 
widely known as Doctor Syntax, from some fancied 
resemblance to the stock portrait of that celebrity. 
He devoted all histime to University class-rooms and 
City churches, through which he roamed at will as by 
prescriptive right. He boasted that he had attended 
more than a hundred courses of lectures ; but his great 
joy was when any chance enabled him to occupy the 
seat of the Lord High Commissioner in St. Giles'. 

One of Carlyle's best passages is the account in 
Sartor Resartus of his perambulation of the Rue St. 
Thomas de L'Enfer, the spiritual conflict that he 
waged then with himself, the victory that he won in 
which the everlasting "Yes "answered the everlasting 
"No." Under the somewhat melodramatic French 

I/O 



MEN OF LETTERS IN EDINBURGH 

name Leith Walk is signified, themost commonplace 
thoroughfare in a town where the ways are rarely com- 
monplace. Perhaps the name was suggested by a 
quaint incident that befell him there. He was walk- 
ing along it when a drunken sailor coming from Leith 
and "tacking" freely as he walked ran into a country- 
man going the other way. " Go to hell," said the sailor, 
wildlyandunreasonablyenraged. "Od, man, I'm going 
to Leith,"said the other, "as if merely pleadingaprev- 
ious engagement, and proceeded calmly on his way." 

I have said the fates were kind in linking together 
though but foramomentthe lives of Burns and Scott, 
and they were unkind in refusing this to the lives of 
Scott and Carlyle. You wish that in some way or 
other they had allowed Carlyle and Robert Louis 
Stevenson to meet, if but for a moment, so that the 
last great writer whom Edinburgh has produced 
might have had the kindly touch of personal inter- 
course with his predecessors ; but it was not to be, nor 
are there many R.L.S. Edinburgh anecdotes worth 
the telling. This which he narrates of his grandfather, 
Robert of Bell Rock fame, is better than any about 
himself The elder Stevenson's wife was a pious lady 
with a circle of pious if humble friends. One of those, 
"an unwieldy old woman," had fallen down one of 
those steep outside stairs abundant in old Edinburgh, 
but she crashed on a passing baker and escaped un- 
hurt by what seemed to Mrs. Stevenson a special in- 
terposition of Providence. "I would liketo know what 
kind of Providence the baker thought it," exclaimed 
her husband. 

R.L.S. had certain flirtations with the Edinburgh 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

underworld of his time, for the dreary respectability 
and precise formalism which has settled like a cloud 
on the once jovial Auld Reekie was abhorrent to the 
soul of the bright youth. No doubt he had his adven- 
tureSjbut if they arestill known they arenot recorded. 
There is some tradition of a novel, Maggie Arnot, I 
think it was called, wherein he told strange tales of 
dark Edinburgh closes, but pious hands consigned it, 
no doubt wisely and properly, to the flames ; and 
though certain Corinthians were scornful and wrath- 
ful, yet you feel his true function was that of the wise 
and kindly, sympathetic and humane essayist and 
moralist that we have learned to love and admire, the 
almost Covenanting writer whom of a surety the men 
of the Covenant would have thrust out and perhaps 
violently ended in holy indignation. I gather a few 
scraps. Of the stories of his childhood this seems ad- 
mirablycharacteristic. He was busy once with pencil 
and paper, and then addressed his mother: " Mamma, I 
havedrawedaman. Shall I draw his soul now?" The 
makers of the New Town when they planned those 
wide, long, exposed streets, forgot one thing, and that 
was the Edinburgh weather, against which, if you 
think of it, the sheltered ways of the ancient city were 
an admirable protection. In many a passage R.L.S. 
has told us how the east wind, and theeasterly "haar," 
and the lack of sun assailed him like cruel and im- 
placable foes. He would lean over the great bridge 
that spans what was once the Nor' Loch, and watch 
the trains as they sped southward on their way, as it 
seemed,to lands of sunshine and romance. It was but 
the pathetic inconsistency of human nature that in the 

172 



MEN OF LETTERS IN EDINBURGH 

lands of perpetual sunshine made him think no stars 
were so splendid as the Edinburgh street lamps, and 
so the whole romance of his life was bound up with 
" the huddle of cold grey hills from which we came," 
and most of all with thatcityof the hills, and thewinds 
and the tempest where he hadhis origin. He was call- 
ed to the Scots bar ; his family were powerful in Edin- 
burgh and so he got a little work — four briefs in all 
we are told. Even when he was far distant the brass 
plate on the door of 17 Heriot Row bore the legend 
"Mr. R. L. Stevenson, Advocate " for many along day. 
Probably the time of the practical joker is passed in 
Edinburgh, or an agent might have been tempted 
to shove some papers in at the letter-box ; but what 
about the cheque with which it used to be, and still is 
in theory at any rate, the laudable habit in the north 
of enclosing as companion to all such documents? 
Ah ! that would indeed have been carrying the joke 
to an unreasonable length. I will not tell here of the 
memorable occasion when plain Leslie Stephen, as 
he then was, took him to the old Infirmary to intro- 
duce him to W. E. Henley,then a patient within those 
grimy walls. It was the beginning of a long story of 
literary and personal friendship, with strange ups and 
downs. Writing about Edinburgh as I do, I would fain 
brighten my page and conclude my chapter with one 
of his most striking notes on his birthplace. " I was 
born likewise within the bounds of an earthly city ill- 
ustrious for her beauty, her tragic and picturesque as- 
sociations, and for thecredit of someof her bravesons. 
Writing as I do in a strange quarter of the world, and 
a late day of my age, I can still behold the profile of 
173 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

her towers and chimneys, and the long trail of her 
smoke against the sunset; I can still hear thosestrains 
of martial music that shegoes to bedwith,endingeach 
day like an act of an opera to the notes of bugles; still 
recall with a grateful effort of memory, any one of a 
thousand beautiful and spacious circumstances that 
pleased me and that must have pleased any one in my 
half-remembered past. It is the beautiful that I thus 
actively recall, the august airs of the castle on its rock, 
nocturnal passages of lights and trees, the sudden 
song of the blackbird in a suburban lane, rosy and 
dusky winter sunsets, the uninhabited splendours of 
the early dawn, the building up of the city on a misty 
day, house above house, spire above spire, until it was 
received into a sky of softly glowing clouds, and seem- 
ed to pass on and upwards by fresh grades and rises, 
city beyond city, a New Jerusalem bodily scaling 
heaven." 



CHAPTER EIGHT 
THE ARTISTS 



CHAPTER EIGHT THE ARTISTS 

ST. MARGARET, QUEEN OF MALCOLM 
Canmore, has been ingeniously if fancifully claimed 
as the earliest of Scots artists. At the end of her life 
she prophesied that Edinburgh Castle would be taken 
by the English. On the wall of her chapel she pictur- 
ed a castle with a ladder against the rampart, and on 
the ladder a man in the act of climbing. In this fashion 
she intimated the castle would fall ; Gardes vous de 
Fi'ancais, she wrote underneath. Probably by the 
French she meant the Normans from whom she her- 
self hadfled. They had taken England andwouldtry, 
she thought, to take Scotland. Thus you read the rid- 
dle,ifitbe worthyourvvhile. The years after are blank; 
the art was ecclesiastical and not properly native. In 
the century before the Reformation there is reason to 
believe that Edinburgh was crowded with fair shrines 
and churches beautifully adorned, but the Reformers 
speedily changed all that. The first important native 
name is that of George Jamesone (i 586-1644), the 
Scots Van Dyck, as he is often called, who, though he 
was born in Aberdeen, finally settled in Edinburgh, 
and, like everybody else, you might say, was buried 
in Greyfriars. 

In 1729 a fine art association, called the Edinburgh 
Academy of St. Luke, was formed, but it speedily 
went to pieces. This is not the place to trace the art 
history of that or of the Edinburgh Select Society. 
In 1760 classes were opened at what was called the 
Trustees Academy; it was supported by an annual 
grant of ;!^2aoo, which was part compensation for the 
increased burdens imposed on Scotland by the union 
with England. This was successively under the charge 

177 M 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

of Alexander Runciman, David Allan, called the 
" Scots Hogarth," John Graham, and Andrew Wilson. 
It still exists as a department of the great government 
art institution at South Kensington. In 1808 a So- 
ciety of Incorporated Artists was formed, and itbegan 
an annual exhibition of pictures which at first were 
very successful. Then came the institution for the 
encouragement of fine arts in Scotland, formed in 
1819. In 1 826 the foundations,sotospeak, of the Scot- 
tish Academy were laid. In 1 837 it received its char- 
ter, and was henceforth known as the Royal Scottish 
Academy ; its annual exhibition was the chief art event 
of the year in Scotland, and since 1855 this exhibition 
has been held in the Grecian temple on the Mound, 
which is one of the most prominent architectural effects 
in Edinburgh. It is a merecommonplace to say there 
is no art without wealth, and, as far as Edinburgh is 
concerned, it is only after a new town began that she 
had painters worththe naming. It is a period of (rough- 
ly) 1 50 years. It is possible that in the future Glasgow 
maybe more important than Edinburgh,butwith this 
Ihavenothingtodo. I have only totellafewanecdotes 
of the chief figures, and first of all there is Jamesone. 
Whatever be his merits, we ought to be grateful to 
this artist because he has preserved for us so many 
contemporary figures. Pictures in those days were 
often made to tell a story. After the battle of Lang- 
side Lord Seton escaped to Flanders, where he was 
forced to drive a waggon for his daily bread. He re- 
turned in happier times for his party, and entered 
again into possession of his estates. He had himself 
painted byJamesone,represented or dressed asawag- 

178 



THE ARTISTS OF EDINBURGH 

goner driving a wain with four horses attached, and 
the picture was hung at Seton Palace. When Charles 
I. came to Scotland in 1633 he dined with my Lord. 
He was much struck with the painting, could not, in 
fact,keep his eyes off it. The admiration of an art cri- 
tic of such rank was fatal. What could a loyal courtier 
do but beg His Majesty's acceptance thereof? "Oh," 
said the King, " he could not rob the family of so in- 
estimable a jewel." Royally spoken, and, you may 
be sure, gratefully heard. It is said the magistrates 
of Edinburgh employed Jamesone to trickuptheNe- 
therbow Port with portraits of the century of ancient 
Kings of the line of Fergus. Hence possibly the le- 
gend that he limned those same mythical royalties 
we see to-day at Holyrood Palace, though it is cer- 
tain enough they are not his, but Flemish De Witt's. 
Jamesone was in favour with Charles, assuredly a dis- 
criminating patron of art and artists. The King stop- 
ped his horse at the Bow and gazed long at the grim 
phantoms in whose reality he, like everybody else, de- 
voutly believed. He gave Jamesone a diamond ring 
from his own finger, and he afterwards sat for his por- 
trait. He allowed the painter to work with his hat on 
to protect him from the cold, which so puffed up our 
artist that he would hardly ever take it off again, no 
matter what company he frequented. We don't know 
his reward, but it seems his ordinary fee was £1 ster- 
ling for a portrait. No doubt it was described as ;^20 
Scots, which made it look better but not go farther. 
You do not wonder that there was a lack of eminent 
painters when the leader of them all was thus re- 
warded. 
179 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

Artists work from various motives. Witness Sir 
Robert Strange the engraver. He fell ardently in love 
with Isabella Lumsden, whose brother acted as secre- 
tary to Prince Charles Edward Stuart. The lady was 
an extreme Jacobite,and insisted thatStrangeshould 
throw in his lot with the old stock. He was present in 
the great battles of the '45, and at Inverness engraved 
a plate for bank-notes for the Stuart Government. He 
had soonotherthings to thinkof. When the cause col- 
lapsed at Culloden,he was in hiding in Edinburgh for 
some time, and existed by selling portraits of the 
exiled family at small cost. Once when visiting his 
Isabella the Government soldiers nearly caught him ; 
probably they had a shrewd suspicion he was like to 
be in thehouse,whichthey unexpectedly entered. The 
lady was equal to this or any other occasion. She wore 
one of the enormous hoops of the period, and under 
this her lover layhid, she the whiledefiantlycarolling 
a Jacobite air whilst the soldiers were looking up the 
chimney, and under the table, and searching all other 
orthodox places of refuge. The pair were shortly after- 
wardsmarried. Strange had various and, finally, pros- 
perous fortunes, and in 1787 was knighted. " If," as 
George ill. said with a grin, for he knew his history, 
"he would acceptthat honour from an Elector of Han- 
over." ButtheKing'sgreat favobrite among Scots art- 
ists was Allan Ramsay, the son of the poet and possi- 
bly of like Jacobite proclivities, although about that 
we hear nothing. He had studied " at the seat of the 
Beast," as his father said, in jest you may be sure, for 
our old friend was no highflyer. Young Ramsay be- 
came an accomplished man of the world, and had more 

180 




ALLAN RAMSAY. PAINTER 
From a Mezzotint afti 



THE ARTISTS OF EDINBURGH 

than a double share, like his father before him, of the 
pawkiness attributed, though not always truthfully, 
to his countrymen. He was soon in London and paint- 
ing Lord Bute most diligently. He did it so well that 
he made Reynolds, in emulation, carefully elaborate 
a full-length that he was doing at the time. "I wish 
to show legs with Ramsay's Lord Bute," quoth he. 
The King preferredJR.amsay ; he talked German, an 
accomplishment rare with Englishmen at the period, 
and he fell in, so to say, with the King's homely ways. 
When H is Majest)^ had dined plentifully on his favour- 
ite boiled mutton and turnips he would say : " Now, 
Ramsay, sit down in my place and take your dinner." 
He was a curled darling of great folk and was appoint- 
ed Court painter in 1767. A universal favourite, even 
Johnson had a good word for him. All this has no- 
thing to do with art, and nobody puts him beside 
Reynolds, but he was highly prosperous. The King 
was wont to present the portrait of himself and his 
consort to all sorts of great people, so Ramsay and 
his assistants were kept busy. Once he went on a 
long visit to Rome, partly on account of his health. 
He left directions with his most able assistant, Philip 
Reinagle, to get ready fifty pairs of Kings and Queens 
at ten guineas apiece. Now Reinagle had learned to 
paint so like Ramsay that no mortal man could tell 
the difference, but as he painted over and over again 
the commonplace features of their Majesties, he got 
heartily sick of the business. He struck for more pay 
and got thirty instead often guineas, so after the end 
of six years he managed to get through with it, some- 
how or other, but ever afterwards he looked backupon 
181 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

theperiod asahorrid nightmare. Ramsaywas a schol- 
ar, a wit, and a gentleman. In a coarse age he was 
delicate and choice. He was fond of tea, but wine was 
too much for his queasy stomach. Art was certainly 
not the all in all for him, and his pictures are feeble. 
Possibly he did not much care ; he had his reward. 
Some critics have thought that he might have been 
a great painter if his heart had been entirely in his 
work. 

It has been said of a greater than he, of the incom- 
parable Sir Henry Raeburn,that the one thing want- 
ing to raise his genius into the highest possible sphere 
was the chastening of a great sorrow or the excite- 
ment of a great passion. I cannot myself conceive 
anything better than his Braxfield among men or his 
Mrs. James Campbell among women, but I have no 
right to speak. At least his prosperity enabled him to 
paint a whole generation, though from that genera- 
tion as we have it on his canvas, a strange malice of 
fate makes the figure of Robert Burns, the greatest of 
them all, most conspicuous by its absence. His pros- 
perity and contentment were the result of the simple 
life and plain livingof old Edinburgh. Hewas a great 
friend of John Clerk, afterwards Lord Eldin. In very 
early days Clerk asked him to dinner. The landlady 
uncovered two dishes, one held three herrings and the 
other three potatoes. " Did I not tell you, wuman," 
said John with that accent which was to make " a' 
the Fifteen " tremble, " that a gentleman was to dine 
wi' me, and that ye were to get sax herrings and sax 
potatoes ? " 

These were his salad days, and ere they were fled 

182 



THE ARTISTS OF EDINBURGH 

a wealthy young widow saw and loved Raeburn. She 
was not personally known to him, but her wit easily 
devised a method. She asked to have her portrait 
painted, and the restwas plain sailing. Itwas then the 
fixed tradition of all the northern painters that you 
must study at Rome if you would be an artist. Rae- 
burnsetofffor Italy. Thestoryis thathehadan intro- 
duction to Sir Joshua Reynolds, whom he visited as 
he passed through London. Reynolds was much im- 
pressed with the youth from the north, and at the end 
took him aside, and in the most delicate manner sug- 
gested that if money was necessary for his studies 
abroad he was prepared to advance it. Raeburn grate- 
fully declined. When he returned from Rome he set- 
tled in Edinburgh, from which hescarcelystirred. His 
old master, Martin, jealously declared that the lad in 
George Street painted better before hewentto Rome, 
but the rest of Scotland did not agree. It became a 
matter of course that everybody who was anybody 
should get himself painted by Raeburn. He seemed 
to see at once into the character of the face he had 
before him, and so his pictures have that remarkable 
characteristic of great artists, they tell us more of the 
man than the actual sight of the man himself does; 
but again I go beyond my province. 

The early life of many Scots artists (and doctors) 
is connected with Edinburgh, but the most import- 
ant part is given to London. Thus Sir David Wilkie 
belongs first of all to Fife, for he was born at Cults, 
where his father was parish minister. His mother saw 
him drawing something with chalk on the floor. The 
child said he was making " bonnie Lady Gonie," re- 
183 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

ferring to Lady Balgonie, who lived near. Obviously 
this same story might have been told of many people, 
not afterwards eminent. In fact, Wilkie's development 
was not rapid. In 1799, when he was fourteen, he 
went to the Trustees Academy at Edinburgh. George 
Thomson, the Secretary, after examining his draw- 
ings declared that they had not sufficient merit to 
procure his admission. The Earl of Leven, however, 
insisted he must be admitted, and admitted he was. 
He proceeded to draw from the antique, not at first 
triumphantly. His father showed one of his studies to 
one of his elders. "What was it?" queried the douce 
man. "A foot," was the answer. "A fute ! a fute ! it's 
mair like a fluke than a fute." In 1804 he returned 
to Cults where he employed himself painting Pit- 
lessie Fair. At church he saw an ideal character study 
nodding in one of the pews. He soon had it trans- 
ferred to the flyleaf of the Bible. He had not escaped 
attention,andwas promptly taken to task. He stoutly 
asserted that in the sketch the eye and the hand alone 
were engaged, he could hear the sermon all the time. 
The ingenuity or matchless impudence of this asser- 
tion fairly astounded his accusers, and the matter 
dropped. I do not tell here how he went to London 
and became famous. How famous let this anecdote 
show. In 1817 hewasat Abbotsfordmakingagroup 
of the Scott family : he went with William Laidlaw 
to Altrive to see Hogg. "Laidlaw," said the shepherd, 
"this is not the great Mr. Wilkie?" " It's just the 
great Mr. Wilkie, Hogg." The poet turned to the 
painter : " I cannot tell you how pleased I am to see 
you in my house and how glad I am to see you are 

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le Engraving by Crcili 



THE ARTISTS OF EDINBURGH 

so young a man." This curious greeting is explained 
thus : Hogg had taken Wilkie for a horse-couper. 
What Wilkie would have taken Hogg for we are not 
told, possibly for something of the same. 

Wilkie, as everybody knows, painted subjects of 
ordinary life in Scotland and England, such as The 
Village Festival, Rent Day, The Penny Weddingand 
so forth. In the prime of life he went to Spain, and 
was much impressed with the genius of Velasquez, 
then little known in this country. He noticed a simi- 
larity to Raeburn, perhaps that peculiar directness 
in going straight to the heart of the subject, that put- 
ting on the canvas the very soul of the man, com- 
mon to both painters. The story goes that when in 
Madrid he went daily to the Museo del Prado, set 
himself down before the picture Los Borrachos, spent 
three hours gazing at it in a sort of ecstasy, and then, 
when fatigue and admiration had worn him out, he 
would take up his hat and with a deep sigh leave the 
place for the time. 

Another son of the manse is more connected with 
Edinburgh than ever Wilkie was, and this is the Rev. 
John Thomson, known as Thomson of Duddingston, 
from the fact that he was parish minister there from 
1801 till his death in 1840. His father was incumbent 
of Dailly in Ayrshire, and here he spent his early 
years. He received the elements of art from the vil- 
lage carpenter — at least, so that worthy averred. He 
was wont to introduce the subject to a stranger. " Ye'll 
ken ane John Thomson, a minister ? " " Why, Thom- 
son of Duddingston, the celebrated painter ? Do you 
know him?" "J/^kenhim? Itwas7;;<?that first taught 
1S5 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

him to pent." As in thecaseofWilkie, his art leanings 
got him into difficulty. At a half-yearly communion 
he noted a picturesque old hillman, and needs must 
forthwith transfer him to paper. The fathers and breth- 
ren were not unnaturally annoyed and disgusted, and 
they deputed one of their number to deal faithfully 
with the offender. Thomson listened in solemn silence, 
nay,took what appeared to besomepencil notes of the 
grave words of censure, at length he suddenly showed 
theotherahastilydrawnsketchofhimself. "Whatauld 
cankered carl do ye think this is?" The censor could 
not choose but laugh, and the incident ended. Thom- 
son was twice married. His second wife was Miss 
Dalrympleof Fordel. Shesaw his picture of The Falls 
of Foyers^ and conceived a passion to know the artist, 
and the moment he saw her he determined " that wo- 
man must be my wife." As he afterwards said, "We 
just drew together." The manse at Duddingston be- 
came for a time a very muses' bower; the choicest of 
Edinburgh witSjChiefamongthem Scott himself, were 
constant visitors. Of illustrious strangers perhaps the 
greatest was Turner, though his remarks were not 
altogether amiable. " Ah, Thomson, you beat me hol- 
low — m frames ! " He was more eulogistic of certain 
pictures. "The man who did that coxAdi paint," When 
he took his leave he said, as he got into the carriage, 
" By God, though, Thomson, I envy you that loch." 
To-day the prospect is a little spoilt by encroaching 
houses and too many people, but Scotland has few 
choicer views than that placid water, the old church 
at the edge, the quaint village, and the mighty Lion 
Hill that broods over all. Thomson is said to have 

i86 



THE ARTISTS OF EDINBURGH 

diligently attended to his clerical duties, but he was 
hard put to it sometimes, for you believe he was more 
artist than theologian. He built himself a studio in 
the manse garden down by the loch. This he called 
Edinburgh, so that too importunate callers might be 
warded off with the remark that he was at Edinburgh. 
" Gone to Edinburgh,"you must know,is the tradition- 
al excuse of everybody in Duddingston who shuts his 
door. One Sunday John, the minister's man, "jowed" 
the bell long and earnestly in vain — the well-known 
figure would not emerge from the manse. John rush- 
ed off to the studio by the loch and found, as he ex- 
pected, the minister hard at work with a canvas be- 
fore him. He admonished him that it was past the 
time, that the people were assembled, and the bells 
' rung in." " Oh, John," said his master, in perplexed 
entreaty,"justgoand ringthe bell for anotherfivemin- 
utestill I get in this bonnie wee bit o'sky." An old wo- 
man of his congregation was in sore trouble,and went 
to the minister and asked for a bit prayer. Thomson 
gave her two halt-crowns. "Take that, Betty, my good 
woman, it's likely to do you more good than any pray- 
er I'm likely to make," a kindly but amusingly cyni- 
cal remark, in the true vein of the moderates of the 
eighteenth century. "Here, J. F.," he said to an emin- 
ent friend who visited him on a Sunday afternoon, 
'^ yoii don't care about breaking the Sabbath, gie these 
pictures a touch of varnish." These were the days be- 
fore the Disruption and the evangelical revival. You 
may set off against him the name of Sir George Har- 
vey, who was made president of the northern Aca- 
demy in 1864. He was much in sympathy with Scots 
187 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

religious tradition, witness his Qtcitting the Manse, 
his Covenant mg P reaching, and other deservedly fa- 
mous pictures. As Mr. W. D. M'Kay points out, the 
Disruption produced in a milder form a recrudes- 
cence of the strain of thought and sentiment of Cove- 
nanting times, and this influenced the choice of sub- 
jects. In his early days when Harvey talked of paint- 
ing, a friend advised him to look at Wilkie; he looked 
and seemed to see nothing that was worth the look- 
ing.but he examined again and again, even as Wilkie 
himself had gazed on Velasquez, and so saw in him 
"the very finest of the wheat." In painting the picture 
The Wise a7id Foolish Builders, he made a child con- 
struct a house on the sand, so that he might see ex- 
actly how the thing was done, not, however, that he 
fell into the stupid error of believing that work and 
care were everything. He would neither persuade a 
man nor dissuade him from an artistic career. " If it is 
in him," he was wont to say, " it is sure to come out, 
whether I advise him or not." 

Of the truth of this saying the life of David Roberts 
is an example. He was the son of a shoemaker and 
was bornat Stockbridge, Edinburgh, at the endof the 
eighteenth century. Like most town boys of theperiod 
he haunted the Mound, then a favourite stand for wild 
beast caravans. This was before the era of Grecian tem- 
ples and statues and trim-kept gardens, and" Geordie 
Boyd's mud brig " (to recall a long-vanished popular 
name) was an unkempt wilderness. He drew pictures 
of the shows on the wall of the white- washed kitchen 
with the end of a burnt stick and a bit of keel, in order 
that his mother might see what they were like. When 



THE ARTISTS OF EDINBURGH 

she had satisfied her curiosity, why — a dash of white- 
wash and the wall was as good as ever ! His more 
ambitious after-attempts were exhibited by the hon- 
est cobbler to his customers, " Hoo has the callant 
learnt it ? " was the perplexed inquiry. With some 
friends of like inclination he turned a disused cellar 
into a life academy : they tried their prentice hands on 
a donkey, and then they sat for one another; but this 
is not the place to follow his upward struggles. In 1 858 
he received the freedom of the city of Edinburgh. 

Where there's a will there's a way, but ways are 
manifold and some of them are negative. Horatio 
Maculloch, the landscape-painter, in his Edinburgh 
from Dabneny Park, had introduced into the fore- 
ground the figure of a woodman lopping the branches 
of a fallen tree. This figure gave him much trouble, 
so he told his friend, Alexander Smith, the poet. One 
day he said cheerfully," Well, Smith, I have done that 
figure at last." " Indeed, and how?" " I have painted 
it out ! " Even genius and hard work do not always 
ensure success. If ever there was a painter of genius 
that man was David Scott, most pathetic figure a- 
mong Edinburgh artists. You scarce know why his 
fame was not greater, or his work not more sought 
after. His life was a short one (i 806-1 849) and his 
genius did not appeal to the mass, for he did not and 
perhaps could not produce a great body of highly im- 
pressive work. Yet, take the best of his illustrations 
to Coleridge's Ancient Mariner. You read the poem 
with deepermeaningjwithfardeeper insight, after you 
have looked on them; to meat least they seem greater 
than William Blake's illustrations to Blair s Grave, a 
189 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

work of like nature. Still more wonderful is the a- 
vadiZmgPuck FleeingBeforethe Daivn. The artist rises 
to the height of his great argument; his genius is for 
the moment equal to Shakespeare's; the spirit of un- 
earthly drollery and mischief and impish humourtak- 
es bodily form before your astonished gaze. " His soul 
was like a star and dwelt apart ; " the few anecdotes 
of him have a strange, weird touch. When a boy, he 
was handed over toa gardenertobe taken to thecoun- 
try. He took a fancy he would never be brought back; 
the gardener swore he would bring him back himself; 
the child, only half convinced, treated the astonished 
rustic to adiscourse on the commandments, and war- 
ned him if he broke his word he would be guilty of 
alie. The gardener, more irritated than amused, wish- 
ed to have nothing whatever to do with him. Going 
into a room once where there was company, he was 
much struck with the appearance of a young lady 
there ; he went up to her, laid his hand on her knees, 
"You are very beautiful," he said. As a childish prank 
he thought he would make a ghost and frighten some 
other children. With a bolsterand asheethesucceed- 
ed only too well ; he became frantic with terror, and 
fairly yelled the house down in his calls for help. 

A different man altogether was Sir Daniel Macnee, 
who was R.S.A. in 1876. He was born the same year 
as David Scott, and lived long after him. The famous 
portrait painter, kindly, polished, accomplished, was 
amanof theworld, widelyknown and universallypop- 
ular, except that his universal suavity of itself now 
and again excited enmity. " I dinna like Macnee a 
bit," said a sour-grained old Scots dame ; " he's aye 

190 



THE ARTISTS OF EDINBURGH 

everybody's freend!" Theold lady might have found 
Sam Bough more to her taste. Though born in Car- 
lisle he settled in Edinburgh in 1855, and belongs to 
the northern capital. In dress and much else he de- 
lighted to run tilt at conventions, and was rather an 
enfant terribledl decorous functions. At some dinner 
or other he noted a superbly got up picture-dealer, 
whom he pretended to mistake for a waiter. " John — 
John, 1 say, John, bring me a pint of wine, and let it 
be of the choicest vintage." His pranks at last pro- 
voked Professor Blackie, who was present, to declare 
roundly and audibly," I am astonished that a man who 
can paint like an angel should come here and conduct 
himself like a fool." He delighted in the Lothian and 
Fife coasts. The Bass he considered in some sort his 
own property, so he jocularly told its owner, Sir Hew 
Dalrymple,"You get ;^2oa yearorsooutof it; I make 
two or three hundred." Bough was the very picture 
of a genial Bohemian, perhaps he was rather fitted to 
shine, a light of the Savage Club than of the northern 
capital, where, if tradition was followed, there was al- 
ways something grim and fell even about the merry- 
making. One or two of his genial maxims are worth 
quoting. There had been some row about a disputed 
succession. "It's an awful warning," he philosophised, 
" to all who try to save money in this world. You had 
farbetterspendyourtinon a little sound liquor, where- 
with to comfort your perishable corps, than have such 
cursed rows about it after you have gone." And again 
his golden rule of the Ars Bibendi, " I like as much 
as I can get honestly and carry decently," on which 
profound maxim let us make an end of our chapter. 
191 



CHAPTER NINE 
THE WOMEN OF EDINBURGH 



CHAPTER NINE 

THE WOMEN OF EDINBURGH 

ANECDOTES OF THE WOMEN OF EDIN- 
burgh are mainly of the eighteenth century. The 
events of an earlier period are too tragic for a trivial 
story or they come under other heads. Is it an anec- 
dote to tell how, on the night of Rizzio's murder (9th 
March 15 66), the conspirators upset the supper table, 
and unless Jane, Countess of Argyll, had caught at a 
falling candle the rest of the tragedy had been played 
in total darkness? And it is only an unusual fact about 
this same countess that when she came to die she was 
enclosed in the richest coffin ever seen in Scotland; 
the compartments and inscriptions being all set in 
solid gold. The chroniclers ought to have some curi- 
ous anecdotes as to the subsequent fate of that coffin, 
but they have not, it vanishes unaccountably from 
history. The tragedies of the Covenant have stories 
of female heroism ; the women were not less constant 
than the men, nay, that learned but malicious gossip, 
Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, insinuates that the hus- 
band might have given in at the last minute, ay, when 
the rope was round his neck at the Crossor the Grass- 
market, but the wife urged him to be true to the death. 
The wives of the persecutors had not seldom a strong 
sympathy with the persecuted. The Duchess of Ro- 
thes, as Lady Ann Lindsay became, sheltered the 
Covenanters. Her husband dropped a friendly hint, 
" My hawks will be out to-night, my Lady, so you had 
better take care of your blackbirds." 

It was natural that a sorely tried and oppressed 
nation should paint the oppressor in the blackest of 
19s 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

colours. You are pleased with an anecdote like the 
above,shovvingthatagleamofpitysometimescrossed 
those truculent faces. The Duke of York (afterwards 
James vil.) at Holyrood had his playful and humane 
hour. There was a sort of informal theatre at the pal- 
ace. In one of the pieces the Princess Anne lay dead 
upon the stage — such was her part. Mumper, her 
own and her father's favourite dog, was not persuad- 
ed, he jumped and fawned on her; she laughed, the 
audience loyally obeyed and the tragedy became a 
farce. " Her Majesty had j-Z/cZr^^ the part,"said Morri- 
son of Prestongrange gruffly. The Duke was ship- 
wrecked on the return voyage to Scotland and Mum- 
per was drowned. A courtier uttered some suavely 
sympathetic words about the dog. " How,sir, can you 
speak oihim, when so many fine fellows went to the 
bottom?" rejoined His Royal Highness. 

Here is a story from the other side. In 1681 the 
Earl of Argyll wascommitted to the Castlefordeclin- 
ing the oath required by the Test Act. On the 12th 
December he was condemned to death and on the 
20th he learned that his execution was imminent. 
Lady Sophia Lindsay of Balcarres, his daughter-in- 
law, comes, it was given out.to bid him a last farewell; 
there is a hurried change of garments in the prison, 
and presently Argyll emerges as lacquey bearing her 
long train. At the critical moment thesentinel rough- 
ly grasped him by the arm. Those Scots dames had 
the nerve of iron and resource without parallel. The 
lady pulled the train out of his hand into the mud, 
slashed him across the face with it till he was all 
smudged over, and rated him soundly for stupidity. 

196 



THE WOMEN OF EDINBURGH 

The soldier laughed, the lady entered the coach, the 
fugitive jumped on the footboard behind, and so away 
into the darkness and liberty of a December night. 
Ere long he was safe in Holland, and she was just as 
safe in the Tolbooth, for even that age would give her 
no other punishment than a brief confinement. Per- 
haps more stoical fortitude was required in the Lady 
Graden's case. She was sister-in-law to Baillie of Jer- 
viswood. At his trial in 1684 for treason she kept up 
his strength from time to time with cordials, for he was 
struck with mortal sickness; she walked with him, as 
he was carried along the High Street, to the place of 
execution at the Cross. He pointed out to her War- 
riston's window (long since removed from the totally 
alteredcloseof that name), and toldof thehigh talk he 
had engaged in with her father, who had himself gone 
that same dread way some twenty years before. She 
"saw him allquartered, and took awayeverypieceand 
wrapped it up in some linen cloth with more than mas- 
culine courage." So says Lauderof Fountainhall,who 
had been one of the Crown counsel at the trial. 

Even as children thewomenof that time were brave 
and devoted. Grizel Hume, daughter of Sir Patrick 
Hume of Pol warth, when a child of twelve was sent by 
her father from the country to Edinburgh to take im- 
portant messages to Baillie as he lay in prison. A hard 
task for a child of those years,but she went through it 
safely; perhaps it was no harder than conveying food 
at the dead of night to the family vault in Polvvarth 
Churchyard where her father was concealed. When 
visiting theprison she became acquainted with theson 
and namesake of Jerviswood : they were afterwards 
197 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

married. The memories of the Hon. George Baillie of 
Jerviswood and of his wife the Lady Grizel Baillie are 
preserved for us in an exquisite monograph by their 
daughter.Lady Grizel Murray of Stanhope. Thename 
of a distinguished statesman is often for his own age 
merely, but the authoress of a popular song has a 
surer title to fame. Inoneof hislastyears in Dumfries, 
Burns quoted Lady Grizel Baillie's "And werena my 
heart licht I wad dee "to a young friend who noted the 
coldness with which the townsfolk then regarded him. 
It is matter of history that Argyll did not escape 
in the long run. In 1685, three years before the dawn 
of the Revolution, he made that unfortunate expedi- 
tion to Scotland which ended in failure, capture and 
death on the old charge. One of his associates was 
Sir John Cochrane of Ochiltree; he also was captured 
and as a " forefaulted traitor " was led by the hang- 
man through the streets of Edinburgh bound and 
bareheaded. A line from London and all was over, 
so his friends thought, but that lineneverarrived. On 
the 7th of July in that year the English mail was 
twice stopped and robbed near Alnwick. The daring 
highwayman turned out to be a girl ! She was Grizel, 
Sir John's daughter, disguised in men's clothes and 
(of course) armed to the teeth. In the end Sir John 
obtained his pardon, and lived to be Earl of Dun- 
donald. 

I n the middle of the next century we have this on the 
Jacobiteside. Whenthe Highlanders were in Carlisle 
in the '45 a lady called Dacre, daughter of a gentle- 
man in Cumberland, lay at Rose Castle in the pangs 
of childbirth and very ill indeed. A party of High- 

198 



THE WOMEN OF EDINBURGH 

landers under Macdonald of Kinloch Moidart enter- 
ed her dwelling to occupy it as their own. When the 
leader learned what had taken place, the presumed 
Highland savage showed himself a considerate and 
chivalrous gentleman. With courteous wordshedrew 
off his men, took the white cockade from his bonnet 
and pinned it on the child's breast. Thus it served to 
guard not merely the child but the whole household. 
The infant became in after years the wife of Clerk of 
Pennicuick, her house was at lOO Princes Street, she 
lived far into the last century, known by her erect 
walk, which she preserved till over her eightieth year, 
and by her quaint dress. Once she was sitting in Con- 
stable's shop when Sir Walter Scott went by. " Oh,Sir 
Walter, are you really going to pass me ? " she called 
out in a dudgeon that was only half feigned. But she 
waseasily pacified. "Sure,myLady,"said the Wizard 
in comic apology, "by this time I might know your 
back as well as your face." She was called the" White 
Rose of Scotland " from the really beautiful legend of 
thewhitecockade, whichshe wore on every important 
occasion. And what of the Highland Bayard? His 
estates were forfeited, his home was burned to the 
ground, and himself on the Gallows Hill at Carlisle 
on the 1 8th October 1 746 suffered the cruel and igno- 
minious death of a traitor — aeqiiitate deuin erga bona 
inalaque documenta ! 

The women were on the side of the Jacobites even 
to the end. " Old maiden ladies were the last leal Ja- 
cobites in Edinburgh. Spinsterhood in its loneliness 
remained ever true to Prince Charlie and the vanish- 
ed dreams of its youth." Thus Dame Margaret Sin- 
199 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

clair of Dunbeath ; and she adds that in the old Epis- 
copal chapel in the Cowgate the last of those Jacobite 
ladies never failed to close her prayer book and stand 
erect in silent protest, when the prayer for King George 
III. and the reigning family was read in the Church 
service. Alison Rutherford, born 1 7 1 2 and the wife of 
Patrick Cockburn of Ormiston, was not of this way 
of thinking. She lived in the house of, and (it seems) 
under the rule of, her father-in-law. She said she 
was married to a man of seventy-five. He was Lord 
Justice-Clerk, and unpopular for his severity to the 
unfortunate rebels of the '15. The nine of diamonds, 
for some occult reason, was called the curse of Scot- 
land, and when it turned up at cards a favourite Jaco- 
bite joke was to greet it as the Lord Justice-Clerk. 
Mrs. Cockburn is best known as the authoress of one, 
and not the best, version of the Flowers of the Forest. 
But this is not her only piece. When the Prince occu- 
pied Edinburgh in the '45, she wrote a skit on the 
specious language of the proclamations which did 
their utmost to satisfy every party. It began — 

" Have you any laws to mend ? 
Or have you any grievance ? 
I'm a hero to my trade 
And truly a most leal prince." 

With this in her pocket she set off to visit the Keiths 
at Ravelston. They were a strong Jacobite family, 
which was perhaps an inducement to the lady to wave 
it in their faces. She was driven back in their coach, 
but at the West Port was stopped by the rough High- 
land Guard who threatened to search after treason- 
ablepapers. Probably the lady then thought thesquib 




MRS ALISON COCKB.URN 
From a Photograph 



THE WOMEN OF EDINBURGH 

had not at all a humorous aspect, and she quaked 
and feared its discovery. But the coach was recog- 
nised as loyal by its emblazonry and it franked its 
freight, so to speak. Mrs. Cockburn was a brilliant 
letter-writer,strong, shrewd, sensible, sometimes path- 
etiCjSometimes almost sublime,she gives you the very 
marrow of old Edinburgh. Thus she declines an in- 
vitation : " Mrs. Cockburn's compliments to Mr. and 
Mrs. Chalmers. Would wait on them with a great deal 
of pleasure, but finds herself at a loss, as Mrs. Chal- 
mers sets her an example of nevercoming from home, 
and as there is nobody she admires more, she wishes 
to imitate her in everything." A woman loses her 
youngchild. These are Mrs. Cockburn's truly Spartan 
comments : " Should she lose her husband or another 
child she would recover : we need sorrowes often. In 
the meantime, if she could accept personal severity it 
would be well, — a ride in rain, wind and storm until 
she is fatigued to death, and spin on a great wheel 
and never allowed to sit down till weariness of nature 
makes her. I do assure you I have gone through all 
these exercises, and have reason to bless God my rea- 
son was prescrv^ed and health now more than belongs 
to my age." And again: "As for me, I sit in my black 
chair, weak, old, and contented. Though my body is 
not portable, I visit you in my prayers and in my cups." 
She tells us that one of her occasional servants, to wit, 
the watervvife, so called because she brought the daily 
supply of water up those interminable stairs, was fre- 
quently tipsy and of no good repute. She discharged 
her,yet she reappeared and was evidently favoured by 
the other servants; this was because she had adopted 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

a foundling called Christie Fletcher, as she was first 
discovered on a stair in Fletcher's Land. The child 
had fine eyes, and was otherwise so attractive that 
Mrs. Cockburn got her into the Orphan Hospital. "By 
the account," she grimly remarks, " of that house, I 
think if our young ladies were educated there,it would 
make a general reform of manners." 

She heard Colonel Reid (afterwards General Reid 
and the founder of the chair of Music in the Univer- 
sity, where the annual Reid concerts perpetuate his 
name)play on the flute. "It thrills to your very heart, 
it speaks all languages, it comes from the heart to the 
heart. I never could haveconceived,ithad adyingfall. 
I can think of nothing but that flute." Mrs. Cockburn 
saw Sir Walter Scott when he was six, and was aston- 
ished at his precocity. He described her as " a virtu- 
oso like myself," and defined a virtuoso as " one who 
wishes and will know everything." 

The other and superior set of The Flowers of the 
/^(jr^j-^ was written by Miss Jean Elliot, who lived from 
1 727 till 1805. The story is that she was the last Edin- 
burgh lady who kept a private sedan chair in her" lob- 
by." In this she was borne through the town by the 
lastof the caddies. The honour of the last sedan chair 
is likewise claimed for Lady Don who lived in George 
Square; probably there were two"lasts." Those Edin- 
burgh aristocratic lady writers had many points in 
common ; they mainly got fame by one song, they 
made a dead secret of authorship, half because they 
wereshy,half because they were proud. Caroline Bar- 
onessNairnewasmore prolific than the others,for TJie 
Land of the Leal^ Caller Herrin' (the refrain to which 

202 



THE WOMEN OF EDINBURGH 

was caught from the chimes of St. Giles'), The Auld 
Hoose, and John Tod almost reach the high level of 
masterpieces, but she was as determined as theothers 
to keep it dark. Her very husband did not know she 
was an authoress ; she wrote as Mrs. Bogan of Bogan. 
In another direction she was rather too daring. She 
was one of a committee of ladies who proposed toinflict 
a bowdlerised Burns on the Scots nation. An emas- 
culated Jolly Beggars had made strange reading, but 
the project fell through. 

Lady Anne Barnard, one of the Lindsays of Bal- 
carres,was another Edinburgh poetess. She is known 
by her one song, indeed only by a fragment of it, for 
the continuation or second part oi Auld Robin Gray 
is anti-climax, fortunately so bad, that it has well-nigh 
dropped from memory. The song had its origin at 
Balcarres. There was an old Scots ditty beginning, 
" The bridegroom grat when the sun gaed doon." It 
was lewd and witty, but the air inspired the words to 
the gifted authoress. She heard the song from Sophy 
Johnstone — commonly called "Sufif'or "the Suff," 
in the words of Mrs. Cockburn — surely the oddest 
figure among the ladies of old Edinburgh. Part na- 
ture, part training, or rather the want of it, exagger- 
ated in her the bluntness and roughness of those old 
dames. She was daughter ofthe coarse, drunken Laird 
of Hilton. One day after dinner he maintained, in his 
cups, thateducation was rubbish, and that his daughter 
should be brought up without any. He stuck to this : 
she was called in jest the " natural " child of Hilton, 
and came to pass as such in the less proper sense of 
the word. She learned to read and write from the but- 
203 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

ler, and she taught herself to shoe a horse and do an 
artisan's work. She played the fiddle, fought the stable 
boys, swore like a trooper, dressed in a jockey coat, 
walked likea man, sang in a voice that seemed a man's, 
and was believed by half Edinburgh to be a man in 
disguise. She had strong affections and strong hates, 
she had great talent for mimicry, which made her 
manyenemieSjWas inclined to be sceptical thoughnot 
without misgivings and fears. She came to pay a visit 
to Balcarres, and stayed there for thirteen years. She 
had a choice collection of old Scots songs. One linger- 
ed in Sir Walter Scott's memory : 

" Eh," quo' the Tod, " it's a braw, bricht nicht, 
The wind's i' the wast and the mune shines bricht." 

Shegaveheropinion freely. When ill-pleased herdark 
wrinkled face looked darker, and the hard lines about 
hermouth grewharder,as she plantedher two big feet 
well out,and murmured in a deep bass voice, " Surely 
that's great nonsense." One evening at Mrs. Cock- 
burn's in Crichton Street, the feet of Ann Scott, Sir 
Walter's sister, touched by accident the toes of the 
irascible Suff, who retorted with a good kick. " What 
is the lassie wabster, wabster, wabstering that gait 
for ? " she growled. When she was an old woman, Dr. 
Gregory said she must abstain from animal food un- 
less she wished to die. " Dee, Doctor ! odd, I'm think- 
ing they've forgotten an auld wife like me up yonder." 
But all her gaiety vanished near the end. From poverty 
or avarice she half starved herself. The younger gen- 
eration of the Balcarres children brought tit-bits to 
her garret every Sunday. " What hae ye brocht ? 
What hae ye brocht ? " she would snap out greedily. 

204 



«^--^«. 

r*^' 



\dtk g'-^^A 








MISS JEAN ELLIO'l 

Fioni a Scpi';i Dra\vin;< 



THE WOMEN OF EDINBURGH 

And so the curtain falls on this strange figure of old 
Edinburgh, 

I cannot leave those sweet singers without a pass- 
ing word on the old ballad, surely of local origin : 
" Now Arthur's Seat shall be my bed, 

The sheets shall ne'er be pressed by me. 

St. Anton's Well shall be my drink 

Since my true love's forsaken me ! 

Martinmas wind, when wilt thou blaw 

An' shake the green leaves aff the tree ? 

O! gentle death, when wilt thou come ? 

For o' my life I am wearie." 

Is this a woman's voice? You cannot tell. It is sup- 
posed to commemorate the misfortunes of Lady Bar- 
bara Erskine, daughter of the Earl of Mar and wife 
of the second Marquis of Douglas. A rejected and 
malignant suitor is rumoured to have poisoned her 
husband's mind against her, till he drove her from his 
company. 

Edinburgh has many records of high aristocratic, 
but very unconventional or otherwise remarkable, 
dames. Lady Rosslyn sat in the company of her 
friends one day when a woman whose character had 
been blown upon wasannounced. Many of her guests 
rose in a hurry to be gone. " Sit still, sit still," said the 
old lady, " it's na catchin'." Dr. Johnson, on his visit 
to Scotland, met Margaret, Duchess of Douglas, at 
James's Court. He describes her as " talking broad 
Scots with a paralytic voice scarcely understood by 
her own countrymen." It was enviously noted that he 
devoted his attention to her exclusively for the whole 
evening. The innuendo was that Duchesses in Eng- 
landhadnotpaid much attention to Samuel, and that 
205 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

he was inclined to make as much of a Scots specimen as 
hecould. An accusation of snobbery was a good stick 
wherewith to beat the sage. The lady was a daughter 
of Douglas of Maines, and the widow of Archibald, 
Duke of Douglas, who died in 1 76 1 . A more interesting 
figure was the Duchess of Oueensberry, daughter of 
the Earl of Clarendon. The Act of the eleventh Parlia- 
mentofjamesll.,providingthat"no Scotsman should 
marry an Englishwoman without the King's license 
underthe Great Seal, under painofdeathand escheat 
of moveables," was long out of date. She detested 
Scots manners, and did everything to render them 
absurd. She dressed herself as a peasant girl, to ridi- 
cule the stiffcostumes of the day. The Scots made an 
excessive and almost exclusive use of the knife at 
table, whereat she screamed out as if about to faint. 
It is to her credit, however, that she was a friend and 
patron of Gay the poet, entertained him in Queens- 
berry House, Canongate. Perhaps his praises of her 
beauty ought thus to suffer some discount ; but Prior 
was as warm ; and Pope's couplet is classic : 

" If Queensberry to strip there's no compelling, 
'Tis from a handmaid we must take a Helen." 

A little coarse, perhaps, but it was " the tune o' the 
time." "Wild as colt untamed," nodoubt; andshegot 
herself into some more or less laughable scrapes ; but 
what would not be pardoned to a beautiful Duchess ? 
Her prankswere nothing tothose of Lady Maxwell of 
Monreith's daughters. They lived in Hy ndford's Close, 
just above the Netherbow. One of them, a future Du- 
chess of Gordon, too, chased, captured, and bestrode 
a lusty sow, which roamed the streets at will, whilst 

206 



THE WOMEN OF EDINBURGH 

her sister, afterwards Lady Wallace, thumped it be- 
hind with a stick. In the mid-eighteenth century, you 
perceive, swine were free of the High Street of Edin- 
burgh. In after years Lady Wallace had, like other 
Edinburgh ladies, asharptongue. The sonof Kincaid, 
theKing's printer,wasa well-dressed dandy — "agreat 
macaroni," as the current phrase went. From his fa- 
ther's lucrative patent, he was nicknamed "young 
Bibles." " Who is that extraordinary-looking young 
man ?"asked some one at a ball. "Only youngBibles," 
quoth Lady Wallace, " bound in calf and gilt, but not 
lettered." Not that she had always thebest of the argu- 
ment. Once she complained to David H umethat when 
people asked her age she did not know what to say. 
"Tell them you have not yet come to the years of dis- 
cretion," said the amiable philosopher. It was quite in 
his manner. He talked to Lady Anne Lindsay (after- 
wards Barnard) as if they were contemporaries. She 
looked surprised. " Have not you and I grown up to- 
gether; you have grown tall, and I havegrown broad." 
Lady Anne Dick of Corstorphine, granddaughter 
of " Bluidy " Mackenzie, was another wild romp. She 
loved to roam about the town at night in man's dress. 
Every dark close held the possibility of an exciting ad- 
venture. Onceshe was caught by theheels,and passed 
the night in the guard-house which, as Scott tells us, 
"like a huge snail stretched along the High Street 
near the Tron Kirk for many a long day." She wrote 
society verses, light or otherwise. She fancied herself 
or pretended to be in love with Sir Peter Murray — at 
least he wasa favourite subject for hermuse. Your Ed- 
inburgh fine lady could be high and mighty when she 
207 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

chose, witness Susanna Countess of Eglinton, wife of 
Alexandertheninth Earl, and a Kennedyofthehouse 
of Colzean. When she was a girl, a stray hawk alighted 
on her shoulder as she walked in the garden at Col- 
zean ; the Eglinton crest or name was on its bells, and 
she was entitled to hail the omen as significant. Per- 
haps the prophecy helped to bring its own fulfilment : 
at least she refused Sir John Clerk of Eldin for my 
Lord, though he was much her senior. " Susanna and 
the elder,"said the wits of the time. She was six feet in 
height, very handsome and very stately, and she had 
seven daughters like unto herself. One of the groat 
sights of old Edinburgh were the eight gilded sedan 
chairs that conveyed those ladies, moving in stately 
procession from the old Post Office Close to the As- 
sembly Rooms. 

Their mansion house, by the way, afterwards served 
as Fortune's tavern, far the most fashionable of its 
kind in Edinburgh. The Countess has her connection 
with letters: Allan Ramsay dedicated his (7^«//^^/z^- 
herd to her, William Hamilton of Bangour chanted 
her in melodious verse, and Dr. Johnson and she said 
some nice things to one another when he was in Scot- 
land. She was a devoted Jacobite, had a portrait of 
Charles Edward so placed in her bedroom as to be 
the first thing she saw when she wakened in the morn- 
ing. Her last place in Edinburgh was in Jack's Land in 
the Canongate. We haveceasedtothink it remarkable, 
that noble ladies dwelt in thosenow grimy ways. She 
had along innings of fashion and power, for it was not 
till 1780, at the ripe age of ninety-one,that she passed 
away. She kept her looks even in age. "What would 

208 




L S.w:. .H, COUNTESS OF EGLINTON 
From the Painting by Gavin Hamilton 



THE WOMEN OF EDINBURGH 

you give to be as pretty as I ? " she asked her eldest 
daughter, Lady Betty. " Not half so much asyou would 
give to be as young as I," was the pert rejoinder. 

Another high and mighty dame was Catharine, 
daughter of John, Earl of Dundonald, and wife of 
Alexander, sixth Earl of Galloway. She lived in the 
Horse Wynd in the Cowgate, and, it is averred, al- 
ways wentvisiting in acoach and six. It is said — and 
you quite believe it — that whilst she was being hand- 
ed into her coach the leaders were already pawing in 
frontof thedestined door. Inyouth her beauty, in age 
herpride and piety, were the talk ofthetown. Are they 
not commemorated in the Holyrood Ridotto} A more 
pleasing figure is that of Primrose Campbell of Ma- 
more,4widow of that crafty Lord Lovat whose head 
fell on Tower Hill in 1747. She dwelt at the top of 
Blackfriar's Wynd, where Walter Chepman the old 
Edinburgh printer had lived 240 years before. She 
passed a pious, peaceable, and altogether beautiful 
widowhood; perhaps herhappiestyears,forold Simon 
Eraser had given her a bad time. She looked forward 
to the end with steady, untroubled eyes, got her 
grave-clothes ready, and the turnpike stair washed. 
Was this latter, you wonder, so unusual a measure ? 
Sheprofessed indifferenceasto herplaceof sepulchre 
" You may lay me beneath that hearthstane." And 
so, in 1796, in her eighty-sixth year, she went to her 
rest. 

Some of those ladies were not too well off Two of the 
houseofTraquair lived close by St. Mary's Wynd. The 
servant, Jenny,had been out marketing. " But, Jenny, 
what's this in the bottom of the basket ? " " Oo, mem, 
209 o 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

just a dozen o' taties that Lucky, the green-wife, wad 
hae me to tak'; they wad eatsae fine wi' the mutton." 
" Na, na, Jenny, tak' back the taties — we need nae 
provocatives in this house." 

A curiousstory is narrated of Lady EHbank, thedau- 
ghter of an eminent surgeon in Edinburgh. She told 
a would-be suitor, " I do not believe that you would 
part with a ' leith ' of your little finger for my whole 
body." Next day the young man handed her a joint 
from one of his fingers ; she declined to have anything 
to do with him. " The man who has no mercy on his 
own flesh will not spare mine," which served Jiim right. 
She was called up in church, as the use was, to be ex- 
amined in the Assembly's catechism, as Betty Stirling. 
" Filthy fellow," she said ; " he might have called me 
Mrs, Betty or Miss Betty; but to be called bare Betty 
is insufferable." She was called bare Betty as long as 
she lived, which served her right. 

The servants of some of those aristocratic ladies 
were as old-fashioned, as poor, and as devoted as them- 
selves. Mrs. Erskine of Cardross lived in a small house 
at the foot of Merlin's Wynd, which once stood near the 
Tron Kirk. George Mason, her servant, allowed him- 
self much libertyof speech. On a younggentlemancall- 
ingforwineasecond time at dinner.George in a whis- 
per, reproachful and audible, admonished him, " Sir, 
you have had a glass already." This strikes a modern 
as mere impudence, yet passed as proper enough. 

The fashionable life of old Edinburgh had its head- 
quarters in the Assembly Rooms,first in the West Bow 
and then after 1720 south of the High Street in the 
Assembly Close. The formalities of the meetings and 



THE WOMEN OF EDINBURGH 

dances are beyond our scope. The "famed Miss Nicky 
Murray," as Sir Alexander Bosvvell called her, pre- 
sided hereformany years; she was sister of the Earlof 
Mansfield, and a mighty finelady. " Miss of What? " 
she would ask when a lady was presented. If of no- 
whereshe had short shrift: a tradesman,however deck- 
ed, was turned out at once. Her fan was her sceptre 
or enchanted wand, with a wave of which shestopped 
the music, put out the lights, andbrought the day of 
stately and decorous proceedings to a close. 

Another lady directress was the Countess of Pan- 
mure. A brewer's daughter had come very well dress- 
ed, but here fine feathers did not make a fine bird. 
Her Ladyship sent her a message not to come again, 
as she was not entitled to attend the assemblies. Her 
justice was even-handed. She noted her nephew, the 
Earl of Cassillis, did not seem altogether right one 
evening. "You have sat too late after dinner to be pro- 
percompanyforladies,"quothshe; shethenledhimto 
the door, and calling out, " My Lord Cassillis's chair ! " 
wished him "good -night." Perhaps my Lord betook 
himself to the neighbouring Covenant Close, where 
there was a famed oyster-seller commemorated by 
Scott, who knew its merits. Was it on this account or 
because the Covenant had lain for signature there 
that Sir Walter made it the abode of Nanty Ewart 
when he studied divinity at Edinburgh with disastrous 
results ? Unfortunate Covenant Close ! The last time 
I peered through a locked gate on its grimy ways I 
found it used for the brooms and barrows of the city 
scavengers. But to resume. 

The dancing in the Assembly Room washedged a- 

211 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

bout with various rites that madeit a solemn function. 
When alady was assigned to a gallant he needs must 
presentherwith an orange. To" lift the lady " meant 
to ask her to dance. The word was not altogether for- 
tunate ; it is the technical term still used in the north 
to signify that the corpse has begun its procession 
from the house to the grave. " It's lifted, ' whispers the 
undertaker's man to the mourners, as hebeckons them 
to follow. Another quaint custom was to " save the 
ladies" by drinking vast quantities of hot punch to 
their health or in their honour. If they were not thus 
" saved " they were said to be " damned." 

There are as racy stories of folk not so well known, 
and not so exalted. Mrs. Dundas lived on Bunker's 
Hill (hard by where the Register House now stands). 
One of her daughters read from a newspaper to her as 
to some lady whose reputation was damaged by the 
indiscreet talk of the Prince of Wales. "Oh," said old 
fourscore with an indignant shake of her shrivelled 
fist and a tone of cutting contempt," the dawmed vil- 
lain ! Does he kiss and tell ? " 

This is quaint enough. Miss Mamie Trotter,of the 
Mortonhall family,dreamt she was in heaven, and de- 
scribes her far from edifying experience. " And what 
d'ye think I saw there? De'il ha'itbut thousands upon 
thousands, and ten thousands upon ten thousands o' 
stark naked weans ! That wad be a dreadfu' thing, for 
ye ken I ne'er could bide bairns a' my days ! " 

" Come away, BaiHe,and take a trick at the cairds," 
Mrs. Telfer of St. Johii Street, Canongate, and sister 
of Smollett, would exclaim toa worthy magistrateand 
tallow chand ler who paid her an evening visit. " Troth, 




CAROLINE, BARONESS NAIRNE 
From a Lithograph 



THE WOMEN OF EDINBURGH 

madam, I hae nae siller." "Then let us play forap'und 
of can'le," rejoined the gamesome Telfer. 

On the other side of the Canongate, in New Street, 
there lived Christina Ramsay, a daughter of Allan 
Ramsay. She was eighty-eightbefore she died. If she 
wrote no songs she inherited, at any rate, her father's 
kindly nature;she was thefriend of all animals,sheused 
to remonstrate with the carters when they ill-treated 
their horses,and send out rolls to be given to the poor 
overburdened beasts that toiled up the steep street. 
Butshc specially favoured cats. Shekept ahuge num- 
ber cosily stowed away in band-boxes, and put out 
food for others round about her house; she would not 
even permit them to be spoken against, any alleged 
bad deed of a cat she avowed must have been done 
under provocation. 

Here are two marriage stories. Dugald Stewart's 
second wife was Ellen D'ArcyCranstoun, daughter of 
the Hon. George Cranstoun, and sister of Lord Core- 
house. She had written apoem, which her cousin, the 
Earl of Lothian,had shown to the philosopher who was 
then his tutor. The criticism was of a highly flattering 
nature. The professor fell in love with the poetess, and 
she loved him for his eulogy ; they were married, and 
no union ever turned out better. The other is earlier 
and baser. In November 173 1 William Crawford,the 
elderly janitor of the High School, proposed to marry 
alady very muchhis junior. Heandhisfriendsarrived 
at the church. She did not turn up, but there was a let- 
ter from her. " William you must know I am pre-en- 
gaged I never could like a burnt cuttie I have now by 
the hand my sensie menseful strapper, with whom I 
213 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

intend to pass my youthful days. You know old age, 
and youth cannot agree together. I must then be ex- 
cused if I tell you I am not your humble servant." 
Crawford took his rebuff quite coolly. " Let us at least," 
saidhetohis friends," keepthe feast asa feast-day. Let 
us go drink and drive care away. May never a greater 
misfortune attend any man." An assemblage numer- 
ous, if not choice, graced the banquet ; they got up a 
subscription among themselves ofonehundred marks 
and presented it to Crawford, " with which he was as 
well satisfied as he who got madam." 

From all those cleverand witty people itis almost a 
relief toturntosomeanecdotesofsheerstupidity. Why 
John Homethepoet married MissLogan,whowasnot 
cleverorhandsomeor rich, wasaproblem to his friends. 
Hume asked him point-blank. "Ah, David, if I had not 
whoelsewouldhavetakenher?"washi&comicdefence. 
Sir Adam Fergusson told the aged coupleof the Peace 
of Amiens. " Will it mak' ony difference in the price 
o' nitmugs ? " said Mrs. Home, who meant nutmegs, 
if indeed she meant anything at all. 

Jean, sister-in-law to Archibald Constable the pub- 
lisher, had been educated in France and hesitated to 
admitthat she had forgotten the language, and would 
translate coals "collier" and table napkin "table nap- 
kune," to the amazement and amusement of her hear- 
ers. Her ideas towardsthe close got a little mixed. "If 
I should be spared to be taken away," she remarked, 
" I hope my nephew will get the doctor to open my 
head and see if anything can be done for my hear- 
ing." This is a masterpiece of its kind, and perhaps 
too good to be perfectly true. She played well ; "gars 

214 



THE WOMEN OF EDINBURGH 

the instrument speak," it was said. There was one 
touch ofromance in her Hfe. A French admirer had giv- 
en her a box of bonbons, wherein she found " a puzzle 
ring of gold, divided yet united," and with their joint 
initials. She never saw or heard from her lover, yet 
she called for it many times in her last illness. It was 
a betterway of showing her constancy than that taken 
by Lady Betty Charteris.of the Wemyss family. Dis- 
appointed in love, she took to her bed, where she lay 
for twenty-six years, to the time of her death, in fact. 
This was in St. John Street in the latter half of the 
eighteenth century. 

The stage was without much influence in Edin- 
burgh save on rare occasions. One of them was when 
Sarah Siddons was in Edinburgh in 1784. Her first 
appearance was on the 22nd May of that year, when 
she scored a success as Belvedere in Venice Preserved. 
The audience listened in profound silence, and the 
lady, used to more enthusiasm, got a little nerv- 
ous, till a canny citizen was moved audibly to admit, 
"That's no bad." A roar of applause followed that al- 
most literally brought down the galleries. She play- 
ed Lady Randolph in Douglas twice; "there was not 
a dry eye in the whole house," observed the contempor- 
ary Courant. Shakespeare was not acted during her 
visit; the folk of the time were daring enough to 
consider him just so-so after Home ! Everybody was 
mad to hear her. At any rate, the General Assembly 
of the Church was deserted until its meetings were 
arranged not to clash with her appearance. There 
were applications for 2550 places where there were 
only 630 of that description on hand. The gallery 
215 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

doors were guarded by detachments of soldiers with 
drawn bayonets, which they are said to have used to 
some purpose on an all too insistent crowd. Her 
tragedy manner was more than skin deep, she could 
never shake it off; she talked in blank verse, Scott 
used to tell how, during a dinner at Ashestiel, she 
made an attendant shake with — 

" You've brought me water, boy — I asked for beer." 

Once in Edinburgh she dined with the Homes, and 
in her most tragic tones asked for a " little porter." 
John, the old servant-man, took her only too literally; 
he reappeared, lugging in a diminutive though stout 
Highland caddie, remarking, "I've found ane, mem ; 
he's the least I could get." Even Sarah needs must 
laugh, though Mrs. Home, we are assured, on the au- 
thority of Robert Chambers, never saw the joke. 

Another time Mrs. Siddons dined with the Lord 
Provost, who apologised for the seasoning. 

" Beef cannot be too salt for me, my Lord," 
was the solemn response of the tragic muse. 

Such tones once heard were not to be forgotten. A 
servant-lass, by patience or audacity, hadgot intothe 
theatre and was much affected by the performance. 
Next day, as she went about the High Street, intent 
on domestic business, the deep notes of the inimit- 
able Siddons rang inher ears; she dropped herbasket 
in uncontrollable agitation and burst forth, " Eh, sirs, 
weel do I ken the sweet voice (" vice," she would say, 
in the dulcet dialect of the capital) that garred me 
greet sae sair yestre'n." 

After all, Mrs. Siddons does not belong to Edin- 
burgh, though I take her on the wing, as it were, and 
here also I take leave both of her and the subject. 




MRS SIDDONS AS "THE TRAGIC MUSE" 

I'r.'U ■..!: Ltigraving after Sir To<hu,i Rcvnolds, P.R.A. 



CHAPTER TEN 

THE SUPERNATURAL 



CHAP. TEN THE SUPERNATURAL 

PERHAPS THE SHARPEST CONTRAST BE- 

tvveen old Scotland and the Scotland of to-day is the 
decline of belief in the supernatural. Superstitions of 
lucky and unlucky things and days and seasons still 
linger in the south, nay, the byways of London are 
rich in a peculiar kind of folklore which no one thinks 
it worth while to harvest. A certain dry scepticism 
prevails in Scotland, even in the remote country dis- 
tricts; perhapsit isthespread ofeducationorthehard 
practicalnatureof the folk which is, for thetime,upper- 
most ; or is it the result of a violent reaction ? In former 
days it was far other. Before the Reformation the Scot 
accepted the Catholic faith as did the other nations of 
Europe. And there was the usual monastic legend, to 
which, as far as it concerns Edinburgh, I make else- 
where sufficient reference. Between the Reformation 
and the end of the eighteenth century, or even later, 
the supernatural had a stronger grip on the Scots than 
on any other race in Europe. The unseen world beck- 
oned and made its presence known by continual signs ; 
portents andomenswereofdailyoccurrence; men like 
Peden, the prophet, read the book of the future, every 
Covenanter lived a spiritual life whose interest far ex- 
ceeded that of the material life present to his senses. 
As a natural result of hard conditions of existence, 
a sombre temperament, and a gloomy creed, the por- 
tents were ever of disaster. The unseen was full of hos- 
tile forces. The striking mottoes, that still remain on 
some of the Edinburgh houses, were meant to ward off 
evil. The law reports are full of the trials and cruel 
punishment of wizards and witches, malevolent spir- 
219 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

its bent on man's destruction were ever on the alert, 
ghostly appearances hinted at crime and suffering; 
more than all, there was the active personalityof Satan 
himself,one, yet omnipresent.fightinga continual and, 
for the time, successful war against the saints. Burns, 
whose genius preserves for us in many a graphic touch 
that old Scotland which even in his time was fast fad- 
ing away, pictures, half mirthful, yet not altogether 
sceptical, the enemy of mankind : 

" Great is thy pow'r an' great thy fame ; 

Far ken'd an' noted is thy name ; 

An' tho' yon lovvin' heuch's thy hame. 
Thou travels far. 

An' faith ! thou's neither lag nor lame, 
Nor blate nor scaur." 
And now for some illustrations. After the monkish 
legends, one of the earliest, as it is the most famous, 
story of all is the appearance of the ghostly heralds 
in the dead of night at the Cross in Edinburgh, before 
the battle of Flodden, and the summons by themof the 
most eminent Scotsmen of the day, including King 
James himself, to appear before Pluto, Lord of the 
netherworld. A certain gentleman, Mr, Richard Law- 
son, lay that night in his house in the High Street. He 
was to follow the King southward, but his heart was 
heavy with thethought of impendingevil; hecouldnot 
sleep, and roamed up and down the open wooden gall- 
ery, which was then so marked a feature on the first 
floor of Edinburgh houses. It was just in front of the 
Cross. He saw the dread apparition, he heard his own 
name amongstthe list of thosesummoned. Loudly,he 
refused obedience, and protested , and appealed to God 
and Christ. Lindsay of Pitscottie, whose chronicles 

220 




JAMES IV. 
From an old Engraving 



SUPERNATURAL IN EDINBURGH 

preserve many a picturesque tale of old Scotland, had 
this story at first hand from Lawson himself, who as- 
sured him that of all those mentioned he alone had 
escaped. It is scarce necessary to remind the reader 
how admirably Scott has told this story in the fifth 
canto of Marmion. The Cross was the chief place 
from which a summons must issue to the absent, and 
the heralds were the persons to make it. The appeal 
and protest by Mr. Richard Lawson were also quite 
in order. And there is the figure of St. John the Ap- 
ostle which appeared in St. Michael's Church at Lin- 
lithgow to warn James IV. from his projected expe- 
dition. .Again Scott has told this in the fourth canto of 
Marmio7i. It has been suggested that neither legend 
is mere fancy, that both were elaborate devices got up 
by the peace party to frighten James. This may be true 
of the Linlithgow apparition, but it does not reason- 
ably account for the other. 

It strikes you at first as odd that there are no ghost 
storiesabout Holyrood,but there is a substantial reas- 
on. These would mar the effect, the illustrious dead 
with their profoundly tragic histories leave no room 
for other interest. The annals of the Castleare not quite 
barren. Here be samples at any rate. It was the reign 
of Robert ill., and the dawn of the fifteenth century. 
The Dukeof Albany,the King's brother, was pacing, 
with some adherents,the ramparts of the Castle when 
abright meteor flared acrossthe sky. Albany seemed 
much impressed, and announced that this portended 
some calamity as theend of a mighty Prince in the near 
future. Albany was already engaged in plots which 
resulted, in March 1402, in the imprisonment and 
221 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

death by famine of his nephew, David, Duke of Rothe- 
say, so it maybesaid that Iieonly prophesied because 
he knew. Howevei-,theagebeHeved in astrology ; held 
as indisputable that the stars influenced man's life, 
and that every sign in the firmament had a meaning 
for those who watched. Not seldom were battles seen 
in the skies portendingdisasters to come. Asyou con 
over the troubled centuries of old Scots history, it 
seems that disaster always did come, there was no- 
thing but wars and sieges, and red ruin and wast- 
ing. 

Before the death of James v. dread warnings from 
the other world were conveyed to him. Sir James 
Hamilton, who had been beheaded, appeared with a 
drawn sword in his hand, and struck both the King's 
arms off. Certain portents preceded the murder of 
Darnley. Some of his friends dreamed he was in mortal 
danger, and received ghostly admonition tocarryhelp 
to him. It is easy to rationalise those stories. Many 
were concerned in the murder, and it is not to be sup- 
posed that they all kept quite discreet tongues. 

Again, the following picturesque legend is exactly 
such as a troubled time would evolve. After the coro- 
nation of Charles ii. at Scone, Cromwell marched to- 
wards Scotland. The Castle was put in order under 
Colonel Walter Dundas. As the sentinel paced his 
rounds one gloomy night he heard the beat of a drum 
from the esplanade, and the steady tramp of a great 
host ; he fired his musket to give the alarm, and the 
Governor hurried to the scene, but there was nothing. 
The sentinel was punished and replaced, but the same 
thinghappenedjtillintheend Dundas mounted guard 

222 



SUPERNATURAL IN EDINBURGH 

himself. He hears the phantom drummer beating a 
weird measure, then there is the tramp of innumer- 
able feet and the clank of armour. A mighty host, 
audible yet invisible, passes by, and the sound of 
their motion dies gradually away. What could these 
things mean but wars and rumours of wars? And there 
followed in quick succession Dunbar and Worcester, 
commemorated with the victor in a high passage of 
English literature: 

" While Derwen stream, with blood of Scots imbued, 
And Dunbar field resounds thy praises loud 
And Worcester's laureat wreath," 

but then Milton was the laureate of the other side, 
and his view was not that of the Scots. 

Time passes on, and brings notmerely the Restora- 
tion, but the Revolution ; the Castle is true to the old 
cause under the Dukeof Gordon, yet itgives in finally 
and becomes a hold for Jacobite prisoners, among 
whom was Lord Balcarres. On the night of the 27th 
of July 1 689, a hand drew aside the curtains of the bed, 
and there was Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dun- 
dee, gazing at his startled friend. Balcarres address- 
ed thevision,butreceived no answer. Thefigure look- 
ed steadfastly upon the captive, moved towards the 
mantelpiece, and finally disappeared from the room. 
At that very hour, Dundee was lying dead at Killie- 
crankie,the most splendid and most useless of victor- 
ies. The silver bullet had found its billet. The Cove- 
nanters were absolutely convinced that the persecu- 
tors were in direct league with Satan, who protected 
them to the utmost of his power. How else to explain 
their charmed lives, when so many hungered and 
223 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

thirsted after their death? How else to account for that 
reckless courage that provoked whilst it avoided the 
mortal stroke ? What the object of those legends 
thought of them, we cannot tell, perhaps they were 
flattered. Dundee could turn his horse on the slope 
of a hill like a precipice, and his courage — but then 
courage was so cheap a commodity in old Scotland 
that only when it failed was there cause for wonder and 
contemptuous comment. However, the silver bullet 
was proof against enchantment, and Dundee ended 
as surely himself had wished. Legends gathered about 
a much grimmer figure, the very grimmest figure of 
all, Sir Thomas Dalzell of Binns. The long beard, 
the truculent, cruel visage, the martial figure, trained 
in the Muscovite service, well made up the man who 
never knew pity. Is it not told that he bent forward 
from his seat in the Privy Council, at a meeting in 
1 68 1, to strike with clenched fist the accused that was 
there forexamination ? " Is there none other hangman 
in the toun but yourself? " retorted the undaunted 
prisoner. Dalzell had the gift of devoted loyalty, no 
razor had touched his face since thedeath of Charles I. 
The legends about him are in character. At Rullion 
Green the Covenanters feeling their cause lost ere the 
battle was fought, noted with dismay that Dalzell 
was proof against all their shot. The bullets hopped 
back from his huge boots as hail from an iron wall. 
Ah, those terrible boots ! if you filled them with water 
it seethed and boiled on the instant. Certain sceptics 
declare, by the way, he never wore boots at all ! Did 
he spit on the ground, a hole was forthwith burnt in 
the earth. Andyet,strange malice of fate, Sir Thomas 

224 



SUPERNATURAL IN EDINBURGH 

died peaceably in his bed, even though his last hours 
were rumoured as anguished. 

I pick up one or two memories of the supernatural 
from the closes and ways of old Edinburgh. The 
" sanctified bends " of the Bow are long vanished, and 
to-day nothing is more commonplace than the steps 
and the street that bears that memorable name. Its 
most famous inhabitant was no saint, except in appear- 
ance, for here abode Major Weir. From here he was 
hauled to prison in 1670, and thence to his doom at 
theGallow Lee. "The warlock that was burned," says 
*' Wandering Willie " of him. The legend is too well 
known for detailed description. Here he lived long in 
theodourof sanctity,and finally,struck byconscience, 
revealed unmentionable crimes. This story had a pe- 
culiarfascination,bothforSirWalterScottandR.L.S., 
both Edinburgh men, both masters of Scots romance, 
and they have dwelt lovingly on the strange details. 
Thestaffwhich used to run the Major's errands, which 
acted as a link-boy to him o' dark nights, which an- 
swered the door for him, on which he leaned when he 
prayed, and yet whereon were carved the grinning 
heads of Satyrs, only visible,however, on close inspec- 
tion, and after the downfall of its master, was sure the 
strangest magic property ever wizard possessed. Its 
" rare turnings " in the fire wherein it was consumed, 
along with its master,were carefully noted. Long after 
strange sights were seen around his house. At mid- 
night the Major would issue from the door, mount a 
fiery steed, which only wanted the head, and vanish 
in a whirlwind. His sister, Grizel Weir, who ended as 
a witch, span miraculous quantities of yarn. Perhaps 
225 P 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

this accounted for the sound as of a spinning-wheel 
that echoed through the deserted house for more than 
a century afterwards ; but how to explain the sound as 
of dancing, and again as of wailing and howling, and 
that unearthly light wherewith the eerie place was 
flooded? How to explain, indeed! The populace had 
no difficulty, it was the Devil ! 

It would seem that Satanhad an unaccountableand, 
one might say, a perverse fancy for the West Bow, a- 
bodc of the righteous as it was. There are distinct tra- 
ces of him there in the early part of November 1707. 
At that time a certain Mr. John Strahan, W.S., was 
owner of Craigcrook on Corstorphine Hill, the house 
that was to become a literary centre under Lord Jeff- 
rey. He had left his town mansion under the care of a 
young servant-girl called Ellen Bell. On Halloween 
night, still a popular festival in Scotland, she had en- 
tertained two sweethearts of hers Called Thomson 
and Robertson. She told them she was going to 
Craigcrook on the second morning thereafter, so they 
arranged to meet her and convoy her part of the way. 
At five o'clock on the Monday morning, behold the 
three together in the silent streets of the capital. The 
two youths politely relieved the girl of the key of the 
house and some other things she was carrying, and 
then, at the three steps at the foot of the Castle rock, 
they suddenly threw themselves upon her and beat 
the life out. They then returned to rob the house ; 
probably they had gone further than they intended in 
committing murder. They were panic-stricken at what 
they had done, and each swore that if he informed a- 
gainst the other he was to be devoted, body and soul, 

226 



SUPERNATURAL IN EDINBURGH 

to the Devil. It were better,quoth one.to put the mat- 
terinwritiriginabond. "Surely," echoed a suave voice, 
and by their sidethey found an agreeable smilinggen- 
tleman of most obliging disposition, who offered to 
writeout the bond for them, and suggested as the most 
suitable fluid forsignature their own blood. The story 
does not tell whether thet wo noticed anything remark- 
able about their courteous friend, something notquite 
normal about the foot, possibly a gentle hint of a tail. 
At any rate, they received the advances of thestranger 
in anything but an affable spirit, so presently found 
themselves alone. Mr. Strahan seems to have been a 
wealthy gentleman, for there was ^looo in his abode 
(sterling, be it observed, not Scots), with which the 
robbers made off Robertson suggested the firing of 
the house, but this Thomson would not allow. Mr. 
Strahan advertised a substantial reward for the dis- 
covery of the criminals, but nothing was heard for a 
longtime. I f we are to believe Wodrow in his agreeable 
Analecta it required the supernatural intervention of 
Providence to unravel the mystery. Twelve months 
after. Lady Craigcrook (so Mrs. Strahan was known, 
by the courtesy of the time) had a strange dream. 
She saw Robertson, who had once been in her service, 
murder Ellen Bell, rob the house, and conceal the mon- 
ey in two old barrels under some rubbish. A search fol- 
lowed, unmistakable evidences of the robbery were 
found inThomson's possession. He confessed his guilt, 
and after the usual formalities made what might al- 
most be called the conventional exit at the Grass- 
market. Wearenottold whether he was favoured with 
another visit from his courteous old friend of the West 
227 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

Bow, The Scots criminal, like all his countrymen, had 
abundant courage ; he was ready to " dree his weird," 
or, in the popular language of our day, " face the mu- 
sic " with a certain stoical philosophy, but he almost 
invariably did so in a pious and orthodox frame of 
mind. Nothing could show more strongly the depth 
and strength of the popular belief than the frequency 
with which both persecutor and criminal turnedat the 
end with whole-hearted conviction to the creed of the 
people. Thereisnothingin Scotland of those jovialex- 
its which highwaymen Hke Duval and Sixteen-String 
Jack made at Tyburn tree, unless we count M'Pherson 
an exception. He was hanged at Banff in 1700. For 
the last time he played the tune called M'Pherson's 
Ranton his fiddle, and we know how excellently Burns 
has written his epitaph; but he was only a wild Hie- 
landman, so the contemporary Lowlander would have 
observed. 

The West Bow runs off southward just where the 
Castle Hill joins the Lawnmarket. On the north side 
of the Lawnmarket a littleway down there still stands 
Lady Stair's Close and in it Lady Stair's house, and 
about the same time, that is, the early years of the 
eighteenth century,there happened to Lady Stair, or 
Lady Primrose, as she then was, certain miraculous 
events which constitute the most romantic tradition 
of the Old Town. Scott has written a charming novel- 
ette. My Aunt Margarefs Mirror, on the theme, and 
I can only present it here in the briefest possible fa- 
shion. Lord Primrose, the lady's first husband, was, 
it would appear, mad, at any rate, he tried to kill his 
wife, in the which failing he left Auld Reekie and 

22S 



SUPERNATURAL IN EDINBURGH 

went abroad. As she wondered and speculated what 
had become of him, she heard a gossiping rumour of 
an Italian sorcerer possessed of strange power then 
in Edinburgh. He had a magic mirror wherein he 
could show what any absent person was doing at that 
precise moment. Lady Stair and her friend presently 
procured what we should call a seance. The magician 
dwelt in a dark recess of some obscure Canongate 
close, at least we must suppose so in order to get 
sufficient perspective, for all those localities in Edin- 
burgh were so terribly near to one another. From 
Lady Stair's Close to the Canongate is but a few min- 
utes' leisurely promenade. After certain preliminary 
rites the lady gazed in the magic mirror : it showed 
forth a bridal, and the bridegroom was her own hus- 
band ; the service went on some way, and then it was 
interrupted by a person whom she recognised as her 
own brother. Presently the figures vanished, and the 
curtain fell. The lady took an exact note of the time 
and circumstances, and when her brother returned 
from abroad she eagerly questioned him. It was all 
true: the church was in Rotterdam, and her husband 
was about to commit the unromantic offence of big- 
amy with the daughter of a rich merchant when " the 
longarm of coincidence" led the brother to the church 
j ust in time. " Excursions and alarums " of an exciting 
nature at once ensued, but neither these nor the rest 
of the lady's life,though that was remarkable enough, 
concern us here. 

A little way farther down the street, as it nears the 
western wall of the Municipal Buildings,otherwisethe 
Royal Exchange, there stood Mary King's Close. I 
229 



BOOK OF EDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

cannot, nor can anybody, it seems, tell who Mary King 
was. We have a picture of the close, or what remain- 
ed of it in 1845; then the houses were vacant and roof- 
less, the walls ruined, mere crumbling heaps of stones 
— weeds, wallflowers rankly flourishing in every cre- 
vice, for as yet the improver was only fitfully in the 
land. As far back as 1750 a fire had damaged the 
south or upper part of the close, which disappeared 
in the Royal Exchange, The place had been one of 
the spots peculiarly affected by the great plague of 
1645 ; the houses were then shut up, and it was feared 
that if they were opened the pest would stalk forth 
again, but popular fancy soon peopled the close. If 
you lusted after a tremor of delicious horror you had 
but to step down its gloomy ways any night after dark 
and gaze through one of the windows. You saw a 
whole family dressed in the garb of a hundred years 
earlierand of undeniable ghost-likeappearance quiet- 
ly engaged in their ordinary avocations ; then all of a 
sudden these vanished, and you spied a company 
"linking" it through the mazes of the dance, but not a 
mother's son or daughter of them but wanted his or 
her head. In the close itself you might see in the air 
above you a raw head or an arm dripping blood. Such 
and other strange sights are preserved for us in 6"^:- 
tati s Invisible World Displayed -whXchwdiS published 
in 1685 by Professor George Sinclair of Glasgow, af- 
terwards minister of Eastwood. He tells us wondrous 
tales of the adventures in this close of Thomas Colt- 
heart and his spouse. After their entry on the premises 
there appeared a human head with a grey floating 
beard suspended in mid air, to this was added the 

230 



SUPERNATURAL IN EDINBURGH 

phantom of a child, and then an arm, naked from the 
elbow and totally unattached, which made desperate 
but unsuccessful efforts to shake Mrs.Coltheart by the 
hand. Mr. Coltheart, in the most orthodox fashion, 
begged from the ghosts an account of their wrongs, 
that he might speedily procure justice for them; but 
in defiance of all precedent they were obstinately si- 
lent, yet they grew in number — there came a dog and 
a cat, and a number of strange and grotesque beings, 
for whom natural history has no names. The flesh- 
and-blood inhabitants of the room were driven to kneel 
on the bed as being the only place left unoccupied. 
Finally, with a heart-moving groan, the appearances 
vanished, and Mr. Coltheart was permitted to enjoy 
his house in peace till the day of his death,but then he 
must himself begin to play spectre. He appeared to 
a friend at Tranent, ten miles off, and when the trem- 
blingfriend demanded," Are you dead? and if so, why 
come you?" the ghost, who was unmistakably umqu- 
hileColtheart,shook its head twice and vanished with- 
out remark. The friend proceeded at once to Edin- 
burgh and (of course) discovered that Mr. Coltheart 
had just expired. The fact of the apparition was never 
doubted, but the why and the wherefore no man could 
discover,only the house was again left vacant. In truth, 
the ghost must have been rather a trouble to Edin- 
burgh landlords; it was easy for a story to arise, and 
immediately it arose the house was deserted. An old 
soldier and his wife were persuaded to take up their a- 
bode there, but the very first night the candle burned 
blue, and the head, without the body, though with 
wicked, selfish eyes, was present, suspended in mid air, 
231 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

and the inmates fled and Mary King's Close was given 
over as an entirely bad business. After all, the old sol- 
dier was not very venturesome, no more so than an- 
other veteran, William Patullo by name, who was in- 
duced to take Major Weir's mansion. He was effectu- 
ally frightened by a beast somewhat like a calf which 
came and looked at him and his spouse as they lay in 
bed and then vanished, as did the prospective tenants 
forthwith. It was not the age of insurance companies, 
else had there been a special clause against spooks ! 
One is able to smile at some of those stories be- 
cause there is a distinctly comic touch about them. 
No one was the better or the worse for those quaint 
visions of the other world, except the landlords who 
mourned for the empty houses, against the which we 
must put the delight of the "groundlings" whose ears 
were delicately "tickled"; but the witches are quite 
another matter. Old Scots life was ugly in many re- 
spects, in none more so than in the hideous cruelties 
practised on hundreds of helpless old women, and 
sometimes on men, but to a much less extent. Some 
half-century ago the scientific world looked on tales 
of witchcraft as mere delusion, even though then the 
chief facts of mesmerism were known and noted. But 
phenomena which we now call " hypnotism " and " sug- 
gestion " are accepted to-day as facts of life, they are 
thought worthy of scientific treatment, and we now 
see that they explain many phenomena of witchcraft. 
Three hundred years ago everything was ascribed to 
Satan, and fiendish tortures were considered the due 
of his supposed children. A detailed examination is 
undesirable. What are we to learn, for instance, from 

232 



SUPERNATURAL IN EDINBURGH 

the story of the Broughton witches who were burned 
alive, who, in the extremity of torture, renounced their 
Makerandcursedtheirfellow-menPSomeescapedhalf 
burned from the flames and rushed away screaming in 
their agony, but they were pursued, seized, and thrown 
back into the fire, which, more merciful than their kind, 
at length terminated their life and suffering together. 
The leading case in Scotland was that of the North 
Berwick witches ; it properly comes within our pro- 
vince, insomuch as James VI. personally investigated 
the whole matter at Holyrood. James was the author 
of a treatise on witchcraft, and was vastly proud of his 
gift as a witch-finder. The story begins with a certain 
Jeillie Duncan, aservant-girl at Tranent; shemadeso 
many cures that she was presently suspected of witch- 
craft. She was treated to orthodox modes of torture ; 
her fingers were pinched with the pilliwinks, her fore- 
head was wrenched with a rope, but she would say no- 
thing until the Devil's mark was found on her throat, 
when she gave in and confessed herself a servant of 
Satan. Presently there was no end to her confessions! 
She accused all the old women in the neighbourhood, 
especially AgnesSampson "the eldest witch of them all 
resident in Haddington,"and one man," Dr. Fian alias 
John Cunningham, Master of the Schoole at Saltpans 
in Lowthian." AgnesSampson was taken to Holyrood 
for personal examination by the King. At first she 
was obdurate, but after the usual tortures she devel- 
oped a story of the most extraordinary description. 
She told how she was one of two hundred witches 
who sailed over the sea in riddles or sieves, with flag- 
ons of wine, to the old kirk of North Berwick. Jeillie 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

Duncan preceded them to the kirk dancing and play- 
ing on the jews' harp,chantingthewhileamad rhyme. 
Nothing would serve the King but to have Jeillie bro- 
ught before him. She played a solo accompaniment 
the while Agnes Sampson went on with her story. She 
described how the Devil appeared in the kirk, and 
preached a wretched sermon, mixed with obscene 
rites and loaded with much abuse of the King of 
Scotland, " at which time the witches demanded of 
theDevillwhyhedid bearesuchhatred to the King?" 
who answered, " by reason the King is the greatest 
enemie heehath in the world," Solomon listened with 
mouth and ears agape, and eyes sticking out of his 
head in delighted horror, yet even for him the flattery 
was a little too gross or the wonders were too as- 
tounding. "They were all extreame lyears," he round- 
ly declared. But Agnes was equal to the occasion. She 
took His Highness aside, and told him the " verie 
wordes which passed betweene the Kinges majestie 
and his queene at Upslo in Norway, the first night 
of mariage, with there answere ech to other, wherat 
the Kinges majestie wondered greatly and swore by 
the living God that he believed that all the devils in 
hell could not have discovered the same, acknowledg- 
ing her words to be most true, and therefore gave the 
more credit to the rest that is before declared." 

Thus encouraged she proceeded to stuff James with 
a choice assortment of ridiculous details ; sometimes 
fear had the better of her and she flattered him, then 
possibly rage filled her heart and she terrorised him. 
For her and her " kommers " there was presently the 
same end. The King then moved on to Dr. Fian's 

234 



SUPERNATURAL IN EDINBURGH 

case, and he, after a certain amount of torture, began 
his extraordinary confessions, which, like his sisters 
in misfortune, he embroidered with fantastic details. 
Here is one incident. The doctor was enamoured of 
a young lady, a sister of a pupil. To obtain her affec- 
tion he persuaded the boy to bring him three of his 
sister's hairs. The boy's mother was herself a witch, 
and thus trumped Jiis cards. She " went to a young 
heyfer which never had borne calfe," took three hairs 
from it, and sent them to Fian. He practised his in- 
cantations with surprising result. " The heyfer pres- 
ently appeared leaping and dancing," following the 
doctor about and lavishing upon him the most grot- 
esque marks of affection. 

There is a curious X\\.\\&'~>\.oxy o{^-a\z2iZ sUne passion 
dans le desertwhich. recalls in an odd way this strange 
Scots episode, whereof it is highly improbable Balzac 
ever heard. Fian, it seems, had acted as registrar to 
the Devil in the North Berwick kirk proceedings. With 
it all he might possibly have escaped, but having sto- 
len the key of his prison he fled away by night to the 
Saltpans. The King felt himself defrauded, and he 
soon had the doctor again in safe keeping. He felt 
himself still more defrauded when Fian not merely re- 
fused to continue his revelations, but denied those he 
had already made, and then "a most straunge torment " 
was ordered him. All his nails were torn off, one after 
another, with a pair of pincers, then under every nail 
there was thrust in, two needles up to the heads. He 
remained obdurate. He was then subjected to the 
torture of the" bootes," "wherein heecontinued a long 
time and did abide so many blowes in them that his 
235 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

legges were crusht and beaten together as small as 
might bee, and the bones and flesh so bruised that the 
blood and marrow spouted forth in great abundance, 
whereby they were made unserviceable forever." He 
still continued stubborn, and finally was put into a 
cart, taken to theCastle Hill, strangled and thrown in- 
toagreatfire. Thiswas in January 1 591. In trying to 
bring up the past before us it is necessary to face such 
facts, and to remember that James vi. was, with it all, 
not a cruel or unkindly man. 

I gladly turn to a lighter page. The grimy ways of 
Leith do not suggest Fairylan d,but two quaint legends 
of other days are associated therewith. In front of the 
old battery, where are now the new docks,there stood a 
half-submerged rock which was removed in thecourse 
of harbour operations. This was the abode of a demon 
named Shellycoat, from the make of his garments, 
which you gather were of the most approved Persian 
attire. Hewasamalevolent spirit of great power, a ter- 
ror to the urchins of old Leith, and perhaps even to 
their elders, but like "the dreaded name of Demogor- 
gon" his reputation was the worst of him. I f he wrought 
any definite evil, time has obliterated the memory. 
When his rock was blasted, poor Shellycoat was rout- 
ed out, and fled to return no more. 

The other legend is of the fairy boy of Leith who o' 
Thursday nights beat the drum to the fairies in the 
Calton Hill. Admission thereto was obtained by apair 
of great gates, which opened to them, though they were 
invisible to others. The fairies, said the boy," are enter- 
tained with many sorts of music besides my drum ; they 
have besides plenty of variety of meats and wine, and 

236 



SUPERNATURAL IN EDINBURGH 

many times we are carried into France or Holland in 
a night and return again, and whilst we are there we 
enjoy all the pleasures the country doth afford." The 
fairy boy mustatleast be credited with avery vivid im- 
agination. His questioner trysted him for next Thurs- 
day night: the youth duly turned up, apparently got 
what money he could, but towards midnight unac- 
countably disappeared and was seen no more. When 
people were so eager to discover the supernatural, one 
cannot wonder that they succeeded. In 1 702, Mr. Da- 
vid Williamson was preaching in his own church in 
Edinburgh when a " rottan " (rat) appeared and sat 
down on his Bible. This made him stop, and after a lit- 
tlepause he told the congregation that this was a mes- 
sage of God to him. He broke off his sermon and took 
aformal farewellof his people and went homeandcon- 
tinued sick. This was thetime of the Union of the King- 
doms, and two years later, that is, in 1707, a mighty 
shoal of whales invaded the Firth of Forth, " roaring, 
plunging.and threshing upon one another to thegreat 
terrorof all who heard the same." Thirty-five of them 
foundered on thesandsof Kirkcaldy, where they made 
a yet " more dreadful roaring and tossing, when they 
found themselves aground so much that the earth 
trembled. What the unusual appearance of so great 
a number of them at this juncture may portend, shall 
not be our business to inquire." Thechronicler is con- 
vinced that there must be some deep connection be- 
tween such portentous events as the Union of the 
Crowns and theappearance of the whales, though with 
true scientific caution he does not think it proper to 
further riddle out the matter ! 
237 



CHAPTER ELEVEN 

THE STREETS 




A BEDESMAN, OR BLL'EGOWN 



from a Sketch In- Monro S. Orr 



CHAPTER ELEVEN THE STREETS 

I COLLECT HERE A FEW ANECDOTES OF 
life on the streets, and among the people of old Edin- 
burgh. The ancient Scots lived very sparely, yet sump- 
tuary laws were passed, not to enable them to fare 
better,but to keep them down to a lowstandard. The 
English were judged mere gluttons ; "pock puddings" 
the frugal Caledonian deemed them. It was thought 
the Southern gentlemen whom James I. and his Queen 
brought into Scotland introduced a sumptuous mode 
of living. In 1533, the Bishop of St. Andrews raged 
inthepulpit against the wasteful luxury of lateryears. 
A law was presently passed, fixing how each order 
should live, and prohibiting the use of pies and other 
baked meats to all below the rank of baron. In fash- 
ionable circles there were four meals a day, breakfast, 
dinner, supper, and livery, which last was a kind of 
collation taken in the bedchamber, before retiring to 
rest. Acenturyago itwas usual to furnish thebedroom 
with liquor, which, perhaps, was a reminiscence of this 
old-world meal. Thetime for breakfast was seven, then 
came dinner at ten, supper at four,and livery between 
eight and nine. This detail is only of the well-offminor- 
ity. Legislators need not have alarmed themselves, 
grinding poverty was the predominant note of old 
Scots life. Pestilenceswept the land from time totime 
— one cause was imperfect sanitation ; a stronger was 
sheer lack of food. 

Here is James Melville's account of plague-torn 
Edinburgh in November 1585 : — " On the morn we 
made haste and coming to Losterrick (Restalrig) dis- 
joined, and about eleven hours came riding in at the 

241 Q 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

Water-gate up through the Canongate.and rode in at 
the Nether Bow through the great street of Edinburgh, 
in all whilk way we saw not three persons, sae that I 
miskenned Edinburgh, and almost forgot that I had 
ever seen sic a town," 

Oneefifect of poverty was innumerablebeggars. Na- 
turally they thronged Edinburgh, where they made 
themselves a well-nigh intolerable nuisance. The Pri- 
vy Council formulated edicts against "the Strang and 
idle vagabonds " who lay all day on the causeway of 
the Canongate, and bullied the passers-by into giv- 
ing them alms. Perhaps it was to regulate an abuse 
which could not be entirely checked, that the King's 
bedesmen, or Bluegowns, as they were called, from 
their dress, were established or re-formed as licensed 
beggars. These assembled yearly on the King's birth- 
day to receive an annual dole of bread and ale and 
blue gown,and to hear service in St. Giles'. More wel- 
come than all was the gift of a penny for every year of 
the King's reign,which was given in a leather purse. 
The place was the north side of the Tolbooth, hence 
called " The Puir Folks' Purses," or more briefly, " The 
Purses." The scene was afterwards transferred to the 
Canongate Church, and then it was done away with 
altogether. The analogous Maundy money is still dis- 
tributed annually at Westminster Abbey. The classic 
example of this picturesque figure of old Scots life is 
Edie Ochiltree in The Aniigua7y, hut in Scott's time 
BluegownsstilladornedEdinburghstreets; hence the 
following anecdote. Scott, as he went to and fro from 
college, wasin the habit of givingalms to oneof those 
gentlemen. 1 1 turned out that he kept a son Willy, as a 

242 



IN THE STREETS OF EDINBURGH 

divinity student at college, and he made bold to ask 
Scott to share a humble meal with them in their cot- 
tage at St. Leonards, at the base of Arthur's Seat, 
" Please God I may live to see my bairn wag his head 
in a pulpit yet." At the time appointed Scott partook 
of the meal with father and son, the latter at first not 
unnaturally a little shamefaced. The fare was simple, 
but of the very best ; there was a " gigot " of mutton, 
potatoes, and whisky. " Dinna speak to your father 
about it," said Mrs. Scott to Walter ; " if it had been a 
shoulder he might have thought less, but he will say 
that gigot was a sin." The old Edinburgh beggars 
were no doubt a droll lot, though particulars of their 
pranks are sadly lacking. When Sir Richard Steele, 
known to his familiars as Dickie Steele, was in Edin- 
burgh in 17 1 8, he collected the oldest and oddest of 
them to some obscure "howf" in Lady Stair's Close; 
he feasted them to their heart's content and avowed 
" he found enough native drollery to compose a com- 
edy." Well, he didn't, but the same century was to give 
us a greater than Steele and — The Jolly Beggars I 

The folk of old Edinburgh were used to scenes of 
bloodshed — I tell elsewhere the story of " Cleanse the 
Causey," as the historic street fight between the 
Douglases and the Hamiltons was called. It was al- 
most a matter of necessity that men should go arm- 
ed. Wild dissipation was a common incident, pas- 
sions were high, and people did not hold either their 
own lives or those of others at any great rate. Here 
is a story from 1650, when the English were in occu- 
pation of Edinburgh, and so for the time the pre- 
dominant party. x\n English officer had a squabble 
243 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

with some natives; he mounted his horse and said to 
them disdainfully, "With my own hands I killed that 
Scot which ought this horse and this case of pistols 
and who dare say that in this I wronged him ? " He 
paid bitterly for his rashness. "I dare say it," said one 
of his audience, "and thus shall avengeit." He stabb- 
ed him with a sword right through the body so that 
he fell dead. The Scot threw himself into the vacant 
saddle, dashed over the stones to the nearest Port, and 
was lost for ever to pursuit. 

The measures against those acts of violence were 
ludicrously ineffectual. In the houses the firearms were 
chained down lest they should be used in accidental 
affrays; but the streets were not policed at all,and gen- 
tlemen did muchastheyliked. It is toldofHughSom- 
ervilleofUrum, who died in i640,that he wentoneday 
to St. Giles' with Lady Ross, his sister-in-law. A gen- 
tleman happened by chance, it would seem, to push a- 
gainst him, there was a scuffle and Somerville had his 
dagger out on the instant, and would have stuck it in- 
to the intruder had not Lady Ross seized and held him; 
the while she begged the stranger to go away. A duel 
was like to ensue, but in cold blood the affair no doubt 
seemed ridiculous, and was made up. Quarrels about 
equally small matters often led to duels. In January 
1708, two friends, young Baird of Saughtonhall and 
Robert Oswald, were drinking in a tavern at Leith, 
when they had a dispute; they accommodated it, and 
drove to Edinburgh together, they leave the coach at 
the Netherbow, when Baird revives the quarrel, and 
in a few minutes, or perhaps seconds, kills his friend 
with his sword. A reaction followed, and the assassin 

244 



IN THE STREETS OF EDINBURGH 

expressed his deep regret, which did not bring the dead 
man to life again ; the other fled, but finally escaped 
without punishment as the act was not premeditated. 
One of the last incidents of this class was a duel be- 
tween Captain Macrae of Marionville and Sir George 
Ramsay of Bamffin 1790. Itaroseoutofaquarrelcaus- 
ed by the misconduct of a servant. Macrae shot his 
opponent dead, and then fled to France, and he never 
thought it safe to return to Scotland. Duelling was con- 
sidered proper for gentlemen, but only forgentlemen, 
and not to be permitted to all and sundry. Towards 
theend of the sixteenth century abarber challenged a 
chimney sweep, and they had a very pretty " set to " 
vi^ith swords at which neither was hurt. The King pre- 
sently ordered the barber to summary execution be- 
cause he presumed to take the revenge of a gentleman. 
The upper classes did not set a good example to their 
inferiors. One need not discuss whether the Porteous 
mob was really a riot of the common people. The 
Heart of Midlothian, if nothing else, has made it a 
very famous affair. The Edinburgh mob, which was 
very fierce and determined according to Scott, had 
one or two remarkable maxims. At an Irish fair the 
proper course is to bring down your shillelagh on any 
very prominent head. Here the rule was to throw a 
stone at every face that looked out of a window. Dan- 
iel Defoe was in Edinburgh in 1705, on a special mis- 
sion from Government, to do all he could to bring a- 
bout the Union. From his window in the High Street 
he was gazing upon the angry populace and only just 
dodged a large stone. He afterwards discovered not 
merely the rule but the reason thereof, that there mi- 
245 



BOOK OF EDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

ght be no recognition effaces. As the old cock crows 
the youngcock learns, even the children were fighters. 
I have already told how the boys of the High School 
killed Bailie Macmorran in a barring out business. 
There is a legend of the famous Earl of Haddington, 
" Tarn of the Coogate," that when a fight was on be- 
tween the lads of the High School and the students of 
theCollege, he took strenuously the side of the former. 
Nay, he drove the students out ofthe West Port,lock- 
ed the gate in their faces, that they might cool them- 
selves by a night in the fields, and placidly retired to 
his studies. The fighting tradition lasted through the 
centuries. Scott tells us of the incessant bickers be- 
tween the High School and street callants, which, how- 
ever lawless, had yet their own laws. During one of 
those fights a youth known from his dress as Green- 
breeks, a leader of the town, was stuck with a knife, 
and somewhat seriously wounded. He was tended in 
the Infirmary and in due time recovered, but nothing 
would prevail upon him to give any hint whereby his 
assailant might be discovered. The High School boys 
took means to reward him, but the fights were con- 
tinued with unabated vigour. 

Student riots are a chapter by themselves, and in 
Edinburgh were almost to be looked upon as a mat- 
ter of course, and to a mild extent still are, on such 
occasions as Rectorial elections. In past times no 
occasion was lost for burning the Pope in effigy, that 
was always a safe card to play. Even the piety of old 
Edinburgh served to stimulate its brawls. The fam- 
ous commotion at the reading of the service book in 
St. Giles' on 23rd July 1637 is a case in point. Jenny 

246 



IN THE STREETS OF EDINBURGH 

Geddes is to-day commemorated within the Cathe- 
dral itself, and she lives in history by her classic plea- 
santry, on the Dean announcing the collect for the 
day: "Deil colic the wame o'thee fause thief, wilt thou 
say mass at my lug? " There is one other story about 
Jenny to be told. On 19th June 1660 there were 
great rejoicings in Edinburgh upon the Restoration. 
There was service at the Church, banquet of sweet- 
meats and wine at the Cross, which ran claret for the 
benefit of the populace ; at night there were fireworks 
at the Castle, effigies of Cromwell and the Devil were 
paraded through the streets, bonfires blazed every- 
where, and as fuel for these last Jenny is reported to 
havecontributed her stool. No doubt much water had 
run under the bridge since 1637 ; Jenny may or may 
nothavechangedher views, but she was nothing if not 
enthusiastic, and there was really no inconsistency in 
her conduct. Other folk than Jenny had a difficulty to 
reconcile their various devotions ! 

ThepeopleofEdinburghhad a strong aversion from 
bishops. On 4th June 1674, as the members of the 
Council were going to their meeting-place in the Par- 
liament Close, fifteen ladies appeared with a petition 
for a free ministry. Archbishop Sharp was pointedly 
described as Judas, and Traitor. Indeed one of the 
ladies struck him on the neck, screaming that he should 
yet pay for it ere all was done. Any scandal against 
a bishop was readily circulated. Bishop Patterson oi 
Edinburgh was lampooned as a profligate and loose 
liver. In the midst of a seemingly impassioned dis- 
course he is said to have kissed, in the pulpit, his band- 
strings, that being the signal agreed upon between 
247 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

him and his lady-love to prove that he could think 
upon her even in the midst of solemn duties. ^He was 
nicknamed "Bishop Bandstrings." The bishops of the 
persecuting Church disappear from history in a rather 
undignified manner. Patrick Walker tells with great 
glee how at the Revolution, as the convention grew 
more and more enthusiastic for the new order, they, 
fourteen in number, " were expelled at once and stood 
in a crowd with pale faces in the Parliament Close." 
Some daring members of the crowd knocked the 
heads of the poor prelates " hard upon each other," 
the bishops slunk off, and presently were seen no more 
in the streets. " But some of us," continues Patrick, 
" would have rejoiced still more to have seen the whole 
cabalsie sent closally down the Bow that they might 
have found the weight of their tails in a tow to dry 
their stocking soles, and let them know what hang- 
ing was." 

Villon had long before sung on a near prospect of 
the gallows — 

" Or d'une corde d'une toise 
Saura mon col que mon cul poise." 

But you are sure Patrick had never heard of Frangois, 
and the same dismally ludicrous idea had occurred 
independently. 

Certain picturesque figures or rather classes of men 
lent a quaint or comic touch to the streets of old Edin- 
burgh,butall are long swept into Time's dustbin. One 
of these consisted of the chairmen. The Old Town was 
nottheplace for carriages; cabs were not yet, and even 
to-day they do not suit its steep and narrow ways ; but 
the sedan chair was the very thing, you could trundle 

248 




ALLAN RAMSAY, POET 

ter William Aikman 



IN THE STREETS OF EDINBURGH 

it commodiously up and down hill, and narrow must 
have been the close through which it could not pass. 
The chairmen who bore the burden of the chair were 
mainly Highlanders, who flocked to Edinburgh as the 
Irish did afterwards, and in early days formed a dis- 
tinct element in city life. They are reported as of in- 
satiable greed, but their earnings probably were but 
small and uncertain. Still such was their reputation, 
and it was once put to the test to decide a wager. Lord 
Panmure hired a chair and proceeded a short way 
down the Canongate. When he got out he handed the 
chairman a guinea. Millionaires were not yet in the 
land, possibly the chairman imagined he had found a 
benevoleiitlunatiCjOrhemayevenhave smelt a wager. 
" But could her honour no' shuist gie the ither sixpence 
to get a gill ? " The coin was duly handed over, then 
Donald thought he might do something for his com- 
panion and preferred a modest request for " three baw- 
bees of odd change to puy snuff." But even the chair- 
men had another side. Among them was Edmund 
Burke,whodied in 175 1. Hehad beenanattendanton 
Prince Charlie, and had as easily as you like netted 
^30,000 by treachery, for such wasthe handsome price 
fixed for the young chevalier, " dead or alive " ; but it 
never crossed his mind to earn it ! 

Of much the same class were the caddies, whose 
name still lingers as the attendants on golf-players ; the 
caddie was the man-of-all-work of old Edinburgh, for 
various indeed were his functions. Even to-day, if you 
look at some of the high houses, you remember how 
much time inhabitants must have spent in going up 
and down stairs; load the climber with burdens and life 
249 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

were scarce worth living. The chief burden was water, 
and the caddies were the class who bore the stoups con- 
taining it up and down. These water-carriers soon ac- 
quired a pronounced and characteristic stoop ; they 
were dressed in the cast-off red jackets of the City- 
Guard, the women among them had thick felt great- 
coats and hats like the men, their fee was a penny a 
barrel. The same name was applied to a division that 
worked with their brains rather than their hands ; they 
knew every man in the town, and the name, residence, 
and condition of every stranger to whom they acted as 
guides and even companions. You soughtyour caddie 
at the Cross, where he would lounge of a morning on 
a wooden bench till some one was good enough to 
employ him. You remember the interesting account 
Scott gives of the caddies in the part of Guy Manner- 
ing which treats of the visit to Edinburgh of the 
Colonel, 

Still more characteristic of old Edinburgh was the 
Town Guard, who for many a long day acted most in- 
efficiently as police and guardians of the peace to the 
city. They are, so to speak, embalmed in the pages of 
Scott and Fergusson. The first treats them with a touch 
of comic contempt, the other calls them " the black 
banditti," and deprecates their brutal violence. He 
had some cause, personal or otherwise. One of their 
number, Corporal John Dhu, a gigantic Highlander, 
as short of temper as he was long of body, during a city 
row with one fell stroke stretched a member of the mob 
lifeless on thepavement. The populace told wondrous 
legends of this corps. They existed, it was averred, be- 
fore the Christian era, nay, some of them were present 

250 



IN THE STREETS OF EDINBURGH 

at the Crucifixion as Pilate's guard! In truth they only 
dated from the seventeenth century, at any rate as a 
regularly constituted corps, and they came to an end 
early in the nineteenth. They attended all civic cere- 
monies and civic functions, their drums beat every 
night at eight o'clock in the High Street. Their guard 
house long stood opposite the Tron Church. There 
was always acollision between them and the populace 
on occasion of rejoicing, as witness Fergusson's Hal- 
low Fair: 

" Jock Bell gaed forth to play his freaks, 

Great cause he had to rue it, 
For frae a stark Lochaber aix 

He gat a clamihewtt 
Fu' sair that night." 

The unfortunate wretch received a still worse blow, 
nor even then were his troubles ended : 
" He, peching on the causey, lay 
O' kicks an' cufifs well sair'd. 
A highland aith the serjeant gae 

She maun pe see our guard. 
Out spak the warlike corporal, 

' Pring in ta drunken sot ! ' 
They trail'd him ben, an' by my saul 
He paid his drucken groat 
For that neist day." 

Once in the year, at any rate,the populacegot their 
own back again — that was the King's birthday, when 
the authorities assembled in the Parliament House 
to honour theoccasion. Thereafter the mob went with 
one accord for the Guard, and always routed them af- 
ter a desperate resistance. Scott jocosely laments the 
disappearance of those picturesque figures, with their 
uniform of rusty red, their Lochaber axes, their huge 
251 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

cocked hats. But two survived to be present at the 
inauguration of his monument on 15th August 1846. 
Their pay was sixpence a day.TheGaeHc poet,Duncan 
Macintyre, was once asked if anythingcould be done 
to improve his worldly prospects. He confessed a 
modest ambition to be enrolled in the Edinburgh 
Town Guard! AfterthisBurns'spostasaDumfries ex- 
ciseman might seem princely. All competent critics 
agree that Macintyre was the sweetest of singers, a 
poet of true genius, and that his laudatory epitaph in 
old Grey friars was justly earned. Captain James Bur- 
net, who died on the 24th August 18 14, was the last 
commander of this ancient corps. If not so famous as 
someof his predecessors. Major Weir or Captain Por- 
teous,for instance,hewasstillaprominent Edinburgh 
character. He weighed nineteen stones, yet, for a wa- 
ger, climbed Arthur's Seat in a quarter of an hour. 
You do not wonder that he lay panting on the earth 
" like an expiring porpoise." He was one of the "Tur- 
ners," as those were scornfully called who assembled 
on Sunday afternoons,//^/ to go to church, but to take 
a walk or turn. At an earlier day he and his fellows had 
been promptly pounced upon by the seizers, who were 
officials appointed to promenade the streets during 
the hours of divine service. These would apprehend 
the ungodly wanderer and even joints of mutton frizz- 
lingand turning with indecent levity on the roasting- 
jacks. In or about 1735 the blackbird of a Jacobite 
barber, in horrid defiance of the powers that were, 
civil and ecclesiastical, and to the utter subversion of 
Kirk and State, touched " the trembling ears " of the 
seizers with " The King shall enjoy his own again," 

252 



IN THE STREETS OF EDINBURGH 

most audaciously whistled. The songster was forth- 
with taken into custody and transported to the guard 
house. 

Once the " seizers " got emphatically the worst of 
it. Dr. Archibald Pitcairne,poet, scholar, Jacobite, la- 
titudinarian, was not in sympathy in many points with 
the Edinburgh of Queen Anne's day, but he loved his 
glass as well as any of them. He had sent for some 
claret one Sunday forenoon, which the seizers had con- 
fiscated ere it reached his thirsty palate. The wit was 
furious, but he had his revenge. He doctored a few 
bottles of thewinewith some strong drug of disagree- 
able operation, and then he procured its capture by 
the seizers. As he expected, the stuff went speedily 
down their throats ; the result was all he could have 
wished. But Burnet came too late for all this, and a 
nickname was the only punishment for him and his 
fellows. He was also a prominent member of the Lawn- 
market Club — the popular name for certain residents 
who met every morning about seven to discuss the 
news of the day, and to take their morning draught 
of brandy together. Nothing was done in old Edin- 
burgh without the accompaniment of a dram ; the "me- 
ridian " followed the " morning " (the very bells of St. 
Giles that chime the hour were known as the " gill " 
bells), as a matter of course, and both only sustained 
the citizen for the serious business of the evening. 
True, a great deal of the drinking was claret, indeed, 
huge pewter jugs or stoups of that wine were to be 
seen moving up and down the streets of Edinburgh 
in all directions, as ale jugs in London. When a ship 
arrived from Bordeaux the claret hogsheads were 
253 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

carted through the streets, and vessels were filled from 
the spigot at a very cheap rate. There was always a 
native-brewed " tippeny." The curtain was already 
falling on old Edinburgh ere whisky was introduced 
as a regular article of consumption. A thin veil of de- 
cency was thrown over the dissipation ; it was made a 
matter of aggravation in the charge against a gentle- 
man of rank that he had allowed his company to get 
drunk in his house before it was dark in the month of 
July. The peculiar little separate boxes wherein the 
guests revelled in the Edinburgh taverns threw an 
air of secrecy and mystery over the proceedings. One 
of the most famous taverns was Johnny Dowie's, in 
Libberton's Wynd, where George IV. Bridge now sta- 
nds. Its memories of Burns and Fergusson and a hun- 
dred other still famous names make it the Mermaid 
of Edinburgh. It had many baser clients. A visitor 
opens a door and finds a room, the floor covered with 
snoring lads. "Oh," explains mine host with a tolerant 
grin, "just twa-three o' Sir Wullie's drucken clerks!" 
(Sir William Forbes the banker is meant). " The clar- 
tier the cosier," says a wicked old Scots apothegm. 
Wolfe, the hero of Quebec, says that it was not till af- 
ter Christmas, when the better folk had come into it 
from the country, that Edinburgh was "in all its per- 
fection of dirt and gaiety." There could not have been 
anything like sufficient water wherewith to wash, and 
all sorts of filth were hurled from the lofty houses into 
the street. ^' Gardy loo'' was the conventional word 
of warning, uttered not seldom after and not before 
the event. Whether it was from the French " Gare a 
I'eau " may or may not be true. The delightful Mrs. 

254 



IN THE STREETS OF EDINBURGH 

Winifred Jenkins aptly translates it as : '' May the 
Lord have mercy on your souls." 

Until imprisonment for debt was abolished the pre- 
cincts of Holyrood were inhabited by fugitive debtors, 
for there these had the privilege of sanctuary. They 
were called Abbey lairds, and many were the stories 
told of the dodges to get them out of the bounds or 
to remain after Sunday was finished, for that was a free 
day for them. Two anecdotes may be quoted. On a 
certain Sunday in July 1709, Patrick Haliburton,one 
of those Abbey lairds, was induced to visit a creditor, 
by whom he was received with the utmost geniality. 
The bottle was produced and Patrick quaffed to his 
heart's content ; as he staggered from the door after 
midnight, a messenger seized him under a Writ of 
Caption and haled him off to prison. In 1724 Mrs. 
Dilkes, a debtor, had an invitation to a tavern within 
the verge, but to enter it she had to go a i^w paces 
beyond the Girth Cross. The moment she was out- 
side she was nabbed ; but this was too much for the 
women of the place, who rose in their might and res- 
cued her. 

The wit of old Edinburgh wassatirical, bitter, scorn- 
ful, and the practical jokes not in the best of taste. 
The Union,weknow,was intensely unpopular,nowhere 
more than in the Canongate. 

" London and death gar thee look dool," 
sings Allan Ramsay. Holyrood was at an end, save 
for the election of representative Peers. At the first af- 
ter the Union it was noted that all elected were loyal 
to the English government, "a plain evidence of the 
country's slavery to the English Court." A fruit-wo- 
255 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

man paraded the courts of the palace bawling most 
lustily, " Who would buy good pears, old pears, new 
pears, fresh pears — rotten pears, sixteen of them for 
aplack." Remember that pears is pronounced "peers" 
in Scots and the point of the joke is obvious. 

In the suburb of the Pleasance a tailor called Hunter 
had erected a large house which folk named Hunter's 
Folly, or the Castle of Clouts. Gillespie, the founder 
of Gillespie's Hospital, was a snuff merchant; when he 
started a carriage the incorrigible Harry Erskine sug- 
gested as a motto : 

" Wha wad hae thocht it 
That noses had bocht it ? " 

Harry was usually more good-humoured. A working 
man complained to him of the low value of a dollar, 
whichhe showed him. Now,from the scarcity of silver 
at the time, a number of Spanish dollars were in circu- 
lation,on which the head of George III. had been stamp- 
ed over the neck of the Spanish King ; the real was 
some sixpence less than the nominal value, Erskine 
gravely regretted that two such mighty persons had 
laid their heads together to do a poor man out of a 
sixpence. Not that the lawyers always had the best 
of it. Crosby, the original Counsellor Pleydell in Guy 
Mannering, was building a spacious mansion in St. 
AndrewSquare. Hishomeinthecountrywasathatch- 
edcottage. " Ah, Crosby,"said Principal Robertson to 
him one day at dinner, " were your town and country 
house to meet, how they would stare at one another." 
Nor did the people always get the laugh. Walter Ross, 
an Edinburgh character of the eighteenth century, had 
built a square tower in his property on the north side 

256 




\V CROSBIE, « PLEYDELi 



IN THE STREETS OF EDINBURGH 

of the New Town ; in this were all the curious old stones 
he could procure.Thepeople called it Ross's Folly, and 
notwithstanding his prominently displayed threats of 
man-traps and spring-guns they roamed at will over 
his domain. Somehow or other he procured a human 
leg from the dissecting room, dressed it up with stock- 
ing, shoe, and buckle and sent the town-crier with it, 
announcing that " it had been found that night in Wal- 
ter Ross's policy at Stockbridge," and offering to re- 
store it to the owner ! 

A more innocent pleasantry is ascribed to Burns. 
A lady of title, with whom he had the slightest ac- 
quaintance, asked him to a party in what was no doubt 
a very patronising manner. Burns never lost his head 
or his independence in Edinburgh. He replied that he 
would come if the Learned Pig was invited also. The 
animal in question was then one of the attractions 
of the Grassmarket. To balance this is a story of a 
snub by a lady. Dougal Geddie, a successful silver- 
smith, had donned with much pride the red coat of 
a Town Guard officer. He observed with concern a 
lady at the door of the Assembly Rooms without an 
attendant beau. He courteously suggested himself 
" if the arm of an old soldier could be of any use to 
her." "Hoot awa', Dougal, an auld tinkler you mean," 
said the lady. 

One constantly recurring street scene in old Edin- 
burgh was the execution of criminals. Not a mere case 
of decorous hanging, but a man, as like as not, dis- 
membered in sight of thegaping crowd, and that man 
was often one who had been within the memory of all 
a great personage in the State, to whom every knee 
257 R 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

had been bowed, and every cap doffed. Great exe- 
cutions were famous events, and were distinguished 
by impressive and remarkable incidents ; but I shall 
not attempt to record these. Some little remembered 
events must serve for illustration. In 1 66 1 Archibald 
Cornwall, town officer, was hanged at the Cross. He 
had "poinded" an honest man's house, wherein was a 
picture of the King and Queen. These, from careless- 
ness or malice or misplaced sense of humour, he had 
stuck on the gallows at the Cross from which as noted 
he presently dangled. In 1667 Patrick Roy Macgregor 
and some of his following were condemned at Edin- 
burgh for sorning, fire-raising, and murder. Those ca- 
terans were almost outside the law, and they were 
duly hanged, the right hand being previously cut off 
— a favourite old-time addition to capital punish- 
ment. Macgregor was a thick-set, strongly-built man 
of fierce face, in which gleamed his hawk-like eye, 
a human wolf the crowd must have thought him. He 
was"perfectly undaunted"though the hangman bun- 
gled the amputation business so badly that he was 
turned out of office the next day. Executions were 
at different periods carried out on the Castle Hill, at 
the Cross, the Gallow Lee, on the road to Leith, and 
at various places throughout the city,but the ordinary 
spot was, from about 1660 till 1785, in the Grassmar- 
ket, at the foot of the West Bow, after that at the west 
end of the Tolbooth, till its destruction in 1817, then 
at the head of Libberton's Wynd,near where George 
IV. Bridge now is, till 1868, when such public spec- 
tacles were abolished. An old Edinburgh rhyme com- 
memorates the old-time progress of the criminal. 

258 



IN THE STREETS OF EDINBURGH 

" Up the Lawnmarket, And doun the West Bow, 
Up the big ladder, And doun the wee tow." 

As the clock struck the hour after noon, the City 
Guard knocked at the door of the Tolbooth. It was 
flung open and the condemned man marched forth. 
The correct costume was a waistcoat and breeches of 
white, edged with black ribbon, wherewith the night- 
cap on his head was also trimmed. His hands were 
tied behind him, and a rope was round his neck. On 
each side was a parson, behind shuffled the hangman, 
disguised in an overcoat, round were the City Guard, 
with their arms ready. Among the fierce folk of that 
violent town a rescue was always a possibility, and so 
the gruesomefigure went tohisdoom. One other case 
and 1 leave thesubject. Itwasapopular belief in Edin- 
burgh that a man could not be hanged later than four 
o'clockafternoon. A certain John Younghad been con- 
victed of forgery, and condemned to death. The time 
appointed for his execution was the 17th December 
1750, between two and four in the afternoon. Under 
the pretence of private devotion he locked himself in 
the inner room of the prison, and nothing would per- 
suade him to come out. He was only got at by break- 
ing the floor of the room overhead, and even then there 
was difficulty. A gun was presented at his head ; it 
happened to be unloaded. On a calculation of proba- 
bilities he even then refused to surrender; he was fin- 
ally seized and dragged headlongdownstairs. He anx- 
iously inquired if it were not yet four o'clock, and was 
assured he would be hanged, however late the hour. 
As a matter of fact, it was already after four, though 
not by the clock, which had been stopped by the au- 
259 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

thorities. He refused to move, declined, as he said, to 
be accessory to his own murder, but was hanged all 
the same about half-past four. His pranks had only 
given him anotherhalf-hour of life. There were num- 
erous lesser punishments: flogging, mutilation, brand- 
ing, all done in public,to the disgust or entertainment 
of the populace. I tell one story, farce rather than 
tragedy. On the 6th of November 1728, Margaret 
Gibson, for the crime of theft, was drummed through 
the town ; over her neck was fixed a board provided 
withbellswhich chimed at eachstep she made,a little 
from her face there was attached a false face adorned 
with a fox's tail, " In short she was a very odd spec- 
tacle." No doubt; but where did the edification come 
in? I ought to mention that the officials who attended 
an execution were wont thereafter to regale them- 
selves at what was called the Deid Chack. The cheer- 
ful Deacon Brodie, just before his violent exit from 
life, took leave of a town official in this fashion, " Fare 
ye weel. Bailie ! Ye needna be surprised if ye see me 
amang ye yet, to tak' my share o'the Deid Chack." Per- 
haps he meant his ghost would be there, or — but it is 
not worth speculating. This gruesome feast was a- 
bolished through theinfluence of Provost Creech, who 
did much for the city. 

" Auld Reekie aye he keepit tight 
And trig an' braw." 

The crook in Creech's lot was an old soldier, Lauch- 
lin M'Bain, who pretended to sell roasting-jacks. He 
had a street call of " R-r-r-roasting toasting-jacks," 
which was found perfectly unbearable,even by the not 
too nice ears of the citizens. He blackmailed various 

260 



IN THE STREETS OF EDINBURGH 

parties,andthen attached himself likeaburrtoCreech. 
He bellowed before his door with such fell intent that 
the civic dignitary was frantic. He had Lauchlin up be^ 
fore the local courts, but the old soldier, who had fou- 
ght on the government sideat Culloden, produced his 
discharge which clearly gavehim a right topractise his 
business in Edinburgh. Creech had to submit and buy 
the intruder off, Creech himself played pranks just as 
mischievousonacertain drunken Writer to the Signet 
called William Macpherson, a noted character of the 
day. He lived in the West Bow with his two sisters, 
whom he, with quaint barbarity, nicknamed Sodom 
andGommorah. He was notabovetakingfeesinkind. 
Once he thus procured an armful of turnips,withv/hich 
he proceeded homewards; but he was tipsy, and the 
West Bow was near the perpendicular, and ere long 
he was flat on his face, and the turnips flying in every 
direction. He staggered after them and recovered 
most. The Governor of the Castle had asked Creech 
to procure him a cook ; he became so insistent in his 
demands that the bookseller got angry, and happen- 
ing to meet Macpherson, he coolly told him that the 
Governor wished to see him on important business. 
Macpherson could not understand why everybody 
treated him in such a cavalier manner, and a comical 
conversation took place, which was brought to a head 
by the Governor demanding his character. At last he 
blurted out in rage that he was a Writer to the Signet. 
"Why, I wanted a cook," said the Governor. Macpher- 
son retired in wrath to comfort himself with that un- 
failing remedy, the bottle. 

These were not the days of care for the insane, the 
261 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

" natural " was allowed to run about the streets un- 
touched, Jamie Duff was one of the most famous of 
those. In old Scotland a funeral was a very pompous 
and very solemn function. Duff made it a point to be 
present at as many as possible, with cape, cravat, and 
weepers of the most orthodox pattern, however shab- 
by the material, even paper not being disdained. He 
commonly marched at the head of the procession — 
a hideous burlesque of the whole affair. His pranks 
met with strange and unexpected tolerance ; instead 
of beingdrivenaway,he was feed and encouraged. He 
appears at the funeral of Miss Bertram in Guy Manner- 
ing. Scott has gathered many such memories into his 
works. One adventure of Duff's was not a success. He 
had got together, or aped the cast-off suit of a bailie, 
and assumed the title of that mighty functionary. 
Theauthorities interfered and stripped him,thus mak- 
ing themselves the butt of many a local witticism. 
He subsisted on stray gifts of all kinds, but he refused 
silver money. He thought it was a trick to enlist him. 
Another feature of the street was the Highland gen- 
tleman. The memory of one, Francis M'Nab, Esq. 
of M'Nab, still lingers. Once a Lowland friend in- 
quired if Mr. M'Nab was at home. " No," was the an- 
swer, and the door was shut in his face, not before he 
had heard the tones of the chieftain in the background. 
Apprised of his error, he called next day, and asked 
for " The M'Nab," and was received with open arms. 
It happened on the way to Leith races that the chief- 
tain's horse dropped down dead under him. " M'Nab, 
is that the same horse you had last year ? " said an ac- 
quaintance at the next race-meeting. "No, py Cot," re- 

262 



IN THE STREETS OF EDINBURGH 

plied the Laird; "but this is the same whip " — the other 
made off at full speed. When in com m and of the Bread- 
albane Fencibles, he allowed his men to smuggle a 
huge quantity of whisky from the Highlands. A par- 
ty of excisemen laid hands on the baggage of the corps. 
M'Nab pretended to believe they were robbers. He 
was abigman,withapowerful voice; hethunderedout 
to his men "Prime, load" — the gaugers took to their 
heels, and the whisky was saved. 

Smuggling might almost becalled the first of High- 
land virtues. Archibald Campbell, the city officer.had 
the misfortune to lose his mother. He procured a 
hearse, and reverently carried away the body to the 
Highlands for burial. He brought the hearse back 
again, not empty, but full of smuggled whisky. This 
fondness for a trick or practical joke was a feature of 
old Edinburgh. It lived on to later times. In 1803 or 
1 804, Playfair,Thomas Thomson, and Sydney Smith 
instigated by Brougham, proceeded one night to Geo- 
rge Street, with the intention of filching the Galen's 
Head, which stood over the door of Gardiner, the ap- 
othecary. By one climbing on the top of the others 
their object was all but attained,when,by the dim light 
of the oil-lamps. Brougham was descried leading the 
city watch to the spot, his design being to play a trick 
within a trick. There was a hasty scramble, and all 
got off. None save Brougham was very young, and 
even he was twenty-six, and to-day the people are de- 
corous and the place is decorous. Who can now re- 
call what the Mound was like, when it was the chosen 
locus of the menageries of the day? Fergusson, Lord 
Hermand, was proceeding along it just having heard 
263 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

of the fall of the"ministry of all the talents"; he could 
not contain himself. " They are out — by the Lord, 
they are all out, every mother's son of them !" A pass- 
ing lady heard him with absolute horror. " Good 
Lord,then we shall all be devoured ! " she screamed, not 
doubting but that the wild beasts had broken loose. 
A word as to weather. The east coast of Scotland 
is exposed to the chilling fog or mist called haar, and 
to bitter blasts of east wind, as well as to the ordinary 
rain and cloud. Edinburgh, being built on hills, is pe- 
culiarly affected by those forces, and the broad streets 
and open spaces of the New Town worst of all. The 
peculiarbuildof the old part was partly, at least, meant 
as a defence from weather. Fergusson boldly says so. 

" Not Boreas that sae snelly blows 
Dare here pap in his angry nose. 
Thanks to our dads, whase biggin stands 
A sheUer to surrounding lands." 

But there is no shelter in Princes Street. On the 24th 
of January 1868 a great storm raged. Chimney-pots 
and portions of chimney-stacks came down in all di- 
rections. Fifty police carts were filled with the rubbish. 
Cabs were blown over, an instance of the force of the 
east wind which impressed James Payn the novel- 
ist exceedingly. A gentleman had opened Professor 
Syme's carriage door to get out. The door was com- 
pletely blown away; a man brought it up presently, 
with the panel not even scratched and the glass un- 
broken. Another eminent doctor, Sir Robert Christi- 
son, was hurled along Princes Street at such a rate, 
that when, to prevent an accident, he seized hold of a 
lamp-post he was dashed violently into the gutter 

264 



IN THE STREETS OF EDINBURGH 

and seriously hurt his knee. The street was deserted, 
people were afraid to venture out of doors. Even on 
a moderately gusty night the noise of the wind a- 
midst the tall lands and narrow closes of the Old 
Town, as heard from Princes Street, is a sound never 
to be forgotten ; it has a tragic mournful dignity in its 
infinite wail, the voice of old Edinburgh touched with 
pity and terror! Some one has said what a charming 
place Edinburgh would be if you could only put up 
a screen against the east wind. As that is impossible 
it may be held to excuse everything from flight to 
dissipation ! 



i 



CHAPTER TWELVE 
THE CITY 



CHAPTER TWELVE THE CITY 

I CONTINUE THE SUBJECTS OF MY LAST 
chapter, though this deals rather with things under 
cover and folk of a better position than the common 
objects of the street. I pass as briefly as may be the 
more elaborate legends of Edinburgh, they are rather 
story than anecdote. I have already dealt with Lady 
Stair and her close. It is on the north side of the Lawn- 
market. If you go down that same street till it becomes 
the Canongate, on the same side, you have Morocco 
Land with its romantic legend of young Gray, who 
showed a clean pair of heels to the hangman, only to 
turn up a few years after as a bold bad corsair. But he 
came to bless and not to rob, for by his eastern charms 
or what not he cured the Provost's daughter, sick well- 
nigh to death of the plague, and then married her. They 
lived very happily together in Morocco Land, outside 
the Netherbow be it noted, and so outside old Edin- 
burgh, for Gray had vowed he would never again enter 
the city. If you find a difficulty in realising this tale 
of eastern romance amid the grimy surroundings of 
the Canongate of to-day, lift up your eyes to Morocco 
Land, and there is the figure of the Moor carved on it, 
and how can you doubt the story after that ? On the 
opposite side is Oueensberry House, which bears many 
a legend of the splendour and wicked deeds of more 
than one Duke of Queensberry, Chief of them was 
that High Commissioner who presided over the Union 
debates, he whom the Edinburgh mob hated with all 
the bitter hatred of their ferocious souls. They loved 
to tell how when he was strangling the liberties of his 
country in the Parliament House, his idiot son and 
269 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

heir was strangling the poor boy that turned the spit 
in Queensberry House, and was roastinghimuponhis 
own fire so that when the family returned to their 
mansion a cannibal orgie was already in progress. You 
are glad that history enables you to doubt the story 
just as you are sorry you must doubt the others. 

Edinburgh has had a Provost for centuries (since 
1667 he has been entitled by Royal command to the 
designation of Lord Provost), Bailies, Dean of Guild, 
Town Council, and so forth, but you must not believe 
for a moment that these were ever quite the same 
offices. The old municipal constitution of Edinburgh 
was curious and complicated. I shall not attempt to 
explain it, or how the various deacons of the trades 
formed part of it. When it was reformed and the sys- 
tem of self-election abolished, the city officer, Archi- 
bald Campbell, is said to have died out of sheer grief, 
it seemed to him defiling the very Ark of God. The 
old-time magistrates were puffed up with a sense of 
their own importance, that of itself invited a " taking 
down." It was the habit of those dignitaries to pay 
their respects to every new President of the Court of 
Session. President Dundas.whodiedin 1752, was thus 
honoured. He was walking with his guests in the park 
at Arniston, when the attention of Bailie M'Ilroy,one 
of their number, was attracted by a fine ash tree lately 
blown to the ground. He was a wood merchant, and 
thought the occasion too good to be lost. He there and 
then proposed to buy it, and not accepting the curt re- 
fusals of the President, finally offered to pay a half- 
penny a foot above the ordinary price. " Sir," said Dun- 
das in a burst of rage, " rather than cut up that tree, I 

270 



IN THE CITY OF EDINBURGH 

would see you and all the magistrates of Edinburgh 
hanging on it." But the roll of civic dignitaries con- 
tains more illustrious names. 

Provost Drummond,whomaybecalled thefounder 
of the New Town, had long cherished and developed 
the scheme in his mind. Dr. Jardine, his son-in-law, 
lived in part of a house in the north corner of the Royal 
Exchange from which there was a wide prospect away 
over the Nor' Loch to the fields beyond. It was plain 
countryside in those days. The swans used to issue 
from under the Castle rock,swim across theNor' Loch, 
cross the Lang Gate and Bearford's Park, and make 
sadhavocof the cornfields of Wood's farm. Bearford's 
Park was called after Bearford in East Lothian, which 
had the same owner. Perhaps you remember the wish 
of Richard Moniplies in The Fortunes of Nigel ^ that 
hehad hisopponent in Bearford's Park. But toreturn 
to Provost Drummond. He was once with Dr.Thomas 
Somerville, then a young man, in Dr. Jardine's house, 
above mentioned. They were looking at the prospect, 
perhaps watching thevagaries of theaudaciousswans. 
" You, Mr. Somerville," said the Provost, " are a young 
man and may probably live, though I willnot,toseeall 
these fields covered with houses, forming a splendid 
and magnificent city," all which in due timie was to 
come about. Dr. Somerville tells us this story in his 
My Oivji L ife and Tijnes, diwovk still important for the 
history of the period. All this building has not de- 
stroyed the peculiarcharacteristic of Edinburgh scen- 
ery. It is still true that " From thecrowded city we be- 
hold the undisturbed dwellings of the Hare and the 
Heath fowl ; from amidst the busy hum of men we 
271 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

look on recesses where the sound of the human voice 
has but rarely penetrated, on mountains surrounding 
a great metropolis, which rear their mighty heads in 
solitude and silence. What pleases me more in this 
scenery is that it is so perfectly characteristic of the 
country,sopurely Scottish . . . No man in Edinburgh 
can for a moment forget that he is in Scotland." It is 
almost startling to look up from the grime of the 
Canongateto the solitary nooks of Arthur's Seat, tho- 
ugh the sea of houses spreads miles around. What- 
ever scenic effects remain, the historical effects of the 
landscape are vanished. With what various emotions 
the crowd from every point of vantage must have 
watched Dundee's progress along the Lang Gate to 
his interview with the Duke of Gordon on the Castle 
rock ! And the town was not much changed when, ra- 
ther more than half a century afterwards, the citizens, 
some of them the same,watched, after the affair at Colt- 
bridge,the dragoons gallop along the same north ridge 
in headlong flight, a sight which promptly disposed 
the townsfolk's minds in the direction of surrender. 
One gloomy tragedy of the year 17 17 affords a curi- 
ous illustration of this command of prospect. A road 
called Gabriel's Road once ran from the littlehamlet of 
Silvermills on the Water of Leith southward to where 
the Register House now stands. Formerly you crossed 
thedam which bounded the east end of the Nor' Loch, 
and by the port at the bottom of Halkerston's Wynd 
you entered old Edinburgh just as you might enter 
it now by the North Bridge, though at a very differ- 
ent level. To-day Gabriel's Road still appears in the 
street directory, but it is practically a short flight of 

272 




REV. THOMAS SOMERVILLE 
From a Photgraph in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery 



IN THE CITY OF EDINBURGH 

steps and a back way to a collection of houses. In the 
year mentioned a certain Robert Irvine,aprobationer 
of the church, on or near this road, cruelly murdered 
his two pupils, little boys, and sons of Mr. Gordon of 
Ellom, whose only offence was some childish gossip 
about theirpreceptor. The instrument wasapenknife, 
andthesecond boy fled shrieking when hesawthefate 
of his brother, but was pursued and killed by Irvine, 
whomyou might charitably suppose tobeat leastpar- 
tially insane were not deeds of ferocious violence too 
common in old Scots life. The point of the story for us 
is that the tragedy was clearly seen by a great num- 
ber from the Old Town, though they were powerless 
to prevent. The culprit was forthwith seized, and as he 
was taken red-handed,was executed two days after by 
the authorities of Broughton, within whose territory 
the crime had occurred. His hands were previously 
hacked off with the knife, the instrument of his crime. 
The reverend sinner made aspecially edifying end, not 
unnaturally a mark of menof his cloth. In 1570, John 
Kelloe, minister of Spott, near Dunbar, had, for any or 
no reason, murdered his wife. So well had he man- 
aged theaffair that no onesuspected him, but aftersix 
weekshisconscienceforced him tomakeaclean breast 
of the matter. He was strangled and burned at the 
Gallow Lee, between Edinburgh and Leith. His be- 
haviour at the end was all that could be desired. It 
strikes you as overdone, but from the folk of the time 
it extorteda certain admiration. The authorities were 
as cruel as the criminals, A boy burns down a house 
and he is himself burned alive at the Cross as an ex- 
ample. In 1675 two striplings named Clarke and Ram- 
273 s 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

say, seventeen and fifteen years old,robbed and poison- 
ed their master, an old man named Anderson. His 
nephew. Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, warned by a re- 
curringdream.setofffor Edinburgh, and instituted in- 
vestigations which led to the discovery of the crime. 
The youthful culprits were hanged "both in regard to 
the theft clearly proven and for terror that the Italian 
trick of sending men to the other world in figs and pos- 
sits might not come overseas to our Island." Now and 
again there isaredeeming touch in the dark story. In 
1 528 there was an encounter between the Douglases 
and the Hamiltons at Holyrood Palace. A groom of 
the Earl of Lennox spied Sir James HamiltonofFin- 
nart, who had slain his master.among the crowd. He 
presently attacked Sir James in a narrow gallery,and 
wounded him in six places, though none was mortal. 
The groom was discovered and dragged off to torture 
and mutilation. His right hand was hacked off; where- 
upon "he observed with a sarcastic smile that it was 
punished less than it deserved for having failed to re- 
venge his beloved master." I have mentioned the Gal- 
low Lee between Edinburgh and Leith. It was the 
chosen spot for the execution of witches, and for the 
hanging in chainsof great criminals. The hillock was 
composed of very excellent sand. When the New 
Town was built it had been long disused as a place of 
execution, and the owner of the soil had no difficulty 
in disposing of a long succession of cartloads to the 
builders. He insisted on immediate payment and im- 
mediately spentthe money at an adj acent tavern,main- 
tained if not instituted for his special benefit. He drank 
to the last grain as well as to the last drop and van- 

274 



IN THE CITY OF EDINBURGH 

ishes from history, the most extreme and consistent 
of countless Edinburgh topers ! 

I have still somethingillustrative to say of prisoners. 
When Deacon Brodievvasexecuted, ist October 1788, 
his abnormal fortitude was supposed to ground itself 
on an expectation that he would only be half hanged, 
would be resuscitated, and conveyed away a free man. 
He seems to have devised some plan to this end, but 
"the best laid schemes o'micean'men,"we are told on 
good authority, " aft gang agley," and so it was here. 
Edinburgh has one ortwoinstances of revival. On the 
1 8th February 1 594-95, Hercules Stewart was hanged 
at the Cross for his concern in the crimes of his rela- 
tive the Earl of Bothwell. He was an object of popular 
sympathy, as believed to be " ane simple gentleman 
and not ane enterpriser." The body, after being cut 
down,wascarriedto theTolboothtobelaid out, "but 
within a little space he began to recover, and moved 
somewhat, and might by appearance have lived. The 
ministers being advertised hereof went to the King 
to procure for his life, but they had already given a 
new command to strangle him with all speed, so that 
no man durst speak in the contrary." There was not 
much encouragement to be got from this story. Yet 
a woman some generations afterwards had better for- 
tune — the very name of "half-hangit Maggie Dixon " 
of itself explains the legend. She was strung up for 
child-murder in the Grassmarket, and her body had 
a narrow escape from being carried off by a party of 
medical students to the.dissecting room, as it was put 
in a cart and jolted off landward. Those in charge 
stopped before a little change-house for refreshment, 
275 



BOOK OF EDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

however, and when they came forth, Maggie sat up- 
right in the cart, very much alive and kicking. Ap- 
parently she lived happy ever after. She was married, 
had children, and, no doubt, looked upon herself as a 
public character. Was it only popular imagination that 
perceived a certain twist in the neck of the good lady ? 
Many famous men perished on Edinburgh scaffolds, 
and many more filled the Edinburgh prisons, were 
they Castle or Tolbooths, namely, the Heart of Mid- 
lothian cheek by jo wl with St.Giles', or the quaint smal- 
ler one, which still stands in theCanongate. The anec- 
dotes of prisoners are numerous. Here is one lighter 
and less grimy than the bulk. When Principal Car- 
stares was warded in the Castle in 1685, a charming 
youth of twelveyears, son of Erskine of Cambo, came 
to his prison daily, and brought him fruit to relieve 
the monotony of the fare, and what to a scholar was 
just as essential, pen, ink, and paper. He ran his er- 
rands and sat by the open grating for hours. After the 
revolution " the Cardinal " was all-powerful in Scots 
matters ; he did not forget his young friend, and pro- 
cured him the post of Lord Lyon King at Arms, but 
the family were out in the '15, and the dignity was 
forfeit. You gather from this pleasing story that prison 
life in Edinburgh had its alleviations, also escapes were 
numerous. In 1607, Lord Maxwell was shut up in the 
Castle, and there also was Sir James Macdonald from 
theHebrides. They made the keepers drunk, got their 
swords from them by a trick, and locked them safely 
away. The porter made a show of resistance. " False 
knave," cried Maxwell, "open the yett, or I shall hew 
thee in bladds " (pieces), and he would have done it 

276 



IN THE CITY OF EDINBURGH 

you believe ! They got out of the Castle, climbed over 
the town wall at the West Port, and hid in the suburbs. 
Macdonald could not get rid of his fetters, and was 
ignominiously taken in a dung-hill where he was lurk- 
ing ; Maxwell made for the Border on a swift horse, 
and remained at large, in spite of the angry proclama- 
tions of the King. James Grant of Carron had com- 
mitted so many outrages on Speyside that the auth- 
orities, little as they recked of what went on " benorth 
the mont," determined to" gar anedevildinganother." 
Certain men, probably of the same reputation as him- 
selfjhad undertaken to bring him in dead or alive. He 
and his fellows were in fact captured. The latter were 
speedily executed, but he was kept for two years in 
the Castle, and you cannot now guess wherefor. One 
day he observed from his prison window a former ne- 
ighbour, Grant of Tomnavoulen, passing by. "What 
news from Speyside?" asked the captive. "None very 
particular," was the reply ; " the best is that the country 
is rid of you." " Perhaps we shall meet again," quoth 
James cheerfully. Presently his wife conveyed to him 
what purported to be a cask of butter, in fact it held 
some very serviceable rope, and so in the night of the 
15th October 1632 the prisoner lowered himself over 
the Castle wall, and was soon again perambulating 
Speyside, where, you guess, his reception was of a 
mixed description. 

Among the escapes of the eighteenth century I pick 
out two, both from the Heart of Midlothian. One was 
that of Catherine Nairn in i 'j66. She had poisoned her 
husband, and was the mistress of his brother. She was 
brought to Leith from the north in an open boat, and 
277 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

shut up in the Tolbooth. The brother,who had been an 
officer in the army, was executed in the Grassmarket, 
butjudgmentwas respited in thecaseof the lady on the 
plea of pregnancy. She escaped by changing clothes 
with the midwife, who was supposed to be suffering 
from severe toothache. She howled so loudly as she 
wentout,that she almost overdid the part. The keep- 
er cursed her for a howling old Jezebel, and wished he 
might never see her again. Possibly he was in the busi- 
ness himself The lady had various exciting adven- 
tures before she reached a safe hiding-place, almost 
blundered, in fact, into the house of her enemies. She 
finally left the town in a postchaise, whose driver had 
orders, if he were pursued, to drive into the sea and 
drown his fare as if by accident, and thus make a sum- 
mary end of one whose high-placed relatives were only 
assisting her for the sake of the family name. The lev- 
ity of her conduct all through excited the indignation 
and alarm of those who had charge of her ; perhaps she 
was hysterical. She got well off to France, where she 
married a gentleman of good position, and ended " vir- 
tuous and fortunate." This seems the usual fate of the 
lady criminal ; either her experience enables her to 
capture easily the male victim, or her adventures give 
her an unholy attraction in the eyes of the multitude. 
She is rarely an inveterate law-breaker, as she learns 
from bitter experience that honesty and virtue are 
the more agreeable policies. Other than wealthy and 
well-connected criminals escaped. In 1783 James Hay 
lay in the condemned hold for burglary. Hay and 
his father filled the keeper drunk. Old Hay, by imi- 
tating the drawl of the keeper uttering the stereo- 

278 



IN THE CITY OF EDINBURGH 

typed formula of ' turn your hand,' procured the open- 
ing of the outer door, and the lad was off like a hare 
into the night. With a fine instinct of the romantic he 
hid himself in " Bluidy Mackenzie's " tomb, held as 
haunted by all Edinburgh. He was an " auld callant " 
of Heriot's Hospital, which rises just by old Greyfri- 
ars', and the boys supplied him with food in thenight- 
time. When the hue and cry had quieted down, he 
crawled out,escaped,and in due time.it was whispered, 
began a new life under other skies. Probably the ghost- 
ly reputation of that stately mausoleum in Greyfriars' 
Churchyard was more firmly established than ever. 
What could be the cause of those audible midnight 
mutterings, if not the restless ghost of the persecuting 
Lord Advocate? 

As drinking was ^/z^staple amusement of old Edin- 
burgh, " the Ladies " was naturally the most popular 
toast: astockonewas,"All absent friends, allships at 
sea, and the auld pier at Leith." This last was not so 
ridiculous as might be supposed, for it was famous in 
Scott's song, teste the only Robin, to name but him, 
and Scots law,for it was oneof the stock places at which 
fugitives were cited, as witness godly Mr. Alexander 
Peden himself The toastmakers were hard put to it 
sometimes for sentiments. A well-known story relates 
how one unfortunate gentleman could think of noth- 
ing betterthan "the reflection of themuneonthecalm 
bosom o' the lake." As absurd is the story of the anti- 
quary who sat at his potations in a tavern in the old 
Post Office Close on the night of 8th February 1787. 
Suddenly he burst into tears ; he had just remembered 
on that very day " t wa hunner year syne Queen Mary 
279 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

was beheaded." His plight was scarce so bad as that 
of the shadow or hanger-on of Driver clerk to the 
famous Andrew Crosbie, otherwise Counsellor Pley- 
dell. The name of this satellite was Patrick Nimmo. 
He was once mistaken, when found dead drunk in the 
morning after the King's birthday, for the effigy of 
Johnnie Wilkes which had been so loyally and thor- 
oughly kicked about by the mob on the previous even- 
ing. One of his cronies wrote or rather spoke his epi- 
taph in this fashion : " Lord, is he dead at last! Weel, 
that's strange indeed. I drank sax half mutchkins wi' 
him doun at the Hens only three nichts syn ! Bring 
us a biscuit wi' the next gill, mistress. Rab was aye 
fond o' bakes." Of course the scene was a tavern, and 
the memory of poor Rob was at least an excuse for 
another dram. 

This is not very genial merrymaking, but geniality 
is never the characteristic note of Scots humour from 
the earliest times. In 1575 the Regent Morton kept 
a fool named Patrick Bonney, who, seeing his master 
pestered by a crowd of beggars, advised him to throw 
them all into one fire. Even Morton was horrified. 
" Oh," said the jester coolly, " if all these poor people 
were burned you would soon make more poor people 
out of the rich." No wonder the old-time fools were 
frequently whipped. The precentor and the beadle 
were in some ways successors of the old-time fool. 
Thomas Neil fulfilled the first office in old Greyfriars' 
in the time of Erskine and Robertson. He could turn 
out a very passable coffin, and did some small busi- 
ness that way which made him look forward to the 
decease offriends with a not unmixed sorrow. "Hech, 

280 




WILLIAM SMELLIE 
From an Engraving nfter George Watson 



IN THE CITY OF EDINBURGH 

man, butye smell sairo'earth," was his cheerful greet- 
ing to a sick friend. One forenoon the then Nisbet of 
Dirleton met him in the High Street rather tipsy. 
Even the dissipation of old Edinburgh had its laws, 
and the country gentleman pointed out that the pre- 
centor's position made such conduct improper. "I just 
tak' it when I can get it," said Neil, with a leer. 

All the wits of old Edinburgh hit hard. Alexander 
Douglas, W.S., was known as " dirty Douglas." He 
spoke about going to a ball, but he did not wish it re- 
ported that he attended such assemblies. " VVhy,Doug- 
las," said Patrick Robertson, "puf on a well-brushed 
coat and a clean shirt and nobody will know you." 
Andrew Johnson, a teacher of Greek and Hebrew, 
combined in himself many of the characteristics of 
Dominie Sampson. He averred that Job never was a 
schoolmaster, otherwise we should not have heard so 
much about his patience. He was on principle against 
the sweeping of rooms. " Cannot you let the dust lie 
quietly ? " be would say. " Why wear out the boards 
rubbing them so? " He wished to marry the daughter 
of rich parents though he had no money himself. The 
father objected his want of means. " Oh dear, that is no- 
thing," was the confident answer. "You have plenty." 

The stageoccupied a very small place in the history 
of old Edinburgh. We know that a company from 
London were there in the time of James VI. It is just 
possible that Shakespeare may have been one of its 
members, and again when the Duke of York, after- 
wards James Vll. and ll.,wasin Edinburgh acompany 
of English actors were at his court. Dryden has vari- 
ous satiric lines on their performances, in which he 
281 



BOOKOFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

has some more or less passable gibes at that an- 
cient theme, so sadly out of date in our own day, the 
poverty of the Scots nation. It is but scraps of stage 
anecdotes that you pick up. Once when a barber was 
shaving Henry Erskine he received the news that his 
wife had presented him with a son. He forthwith de- 
creed that the child should be called Henry Erskine 
Johnson. The boy afterwards became an actor, and 
was known as the Scottish Roscius; his favourite part 
was young Norval — of course from Douglas. The au- 
dience beheld with sympathy or derision the vener- 
able author blubbering in the boxes, and declaring 
that only now had his conception of the character 
been realised. 

At the time of the French Revolution one or two of 
the Edinburgh sympathisers attempted a poor imita- 
tion of French methods. A decent shopkeeper rejoic- 
ing to be known as "Citizen M." had put up at "The 
Black Bull." He told the servant girl to call him in 
time for the Lauder coach. " But mind ye," says he, 
"whenyechapatthedoor,atnohandmaunyesay*Mr. 
M., its time to rise,' but ye maun say, ' Ceetizan, equal 
rise." The girl had forgotten the name by the morning, 
and could only call out, "Equal rise." Of one like him 
it was reported, according to the story of an old lady, 
that he "erekit a gulliteen in his back court and gulli- 
teen'd a' his hens on't." 

The silly conceited fool is not rare anywhere, but 
only occasionally are his sayings or doings amusing. 
Harry Erskine's elder brother the Earl of Buchan was 
as well known in Edinburgh as himself He certainly 
had brains, but was very pompous and puffed up. 

282 



IN THE CITY OF EDINBURGH 

When Sir David Brewster was ayoung man and only 
beginning to make his name a paper of his on optics 
was highly spoken of. "You see, I revised it," said the 
Earl with sublime conceit. Asked if he had been at the 
church of St. George's in the forenoon, " No," he said, 
"but my mits are left on the front pew of the gallery. 
When the congregation see them they are pleased to 
think that the Earl of Buchan is there." He believed 
himself irresistible with the other sex. He thus ad- 
dressed a handsome younglady : " Good-bye, my dear, 
but pray remember that Margaret, Countess of Buch- 
an, is not immortal." An article in the Edinburgh Re- 
vieiv once incurred his displeasure, so he laid the of- 
fending number down in the hall, ordered his footmen 
to open the front door of his house in George Street, 
and then solemnly kicked out the offending journal. 
When Scott was ill, Lockhart tells us the Earl com- 
posed a discourseto be read at his funeral and brought 
it down to read to the sick man, but he was denied ad- 
mittance. 

The Scots have always been noted for takingthem- 
selves seriously. Nemo me impune lacessit is no empty 
boast. In Charles the Second's time the Bishop of 
St. Asaph had written a treatise to show that the an- 
tiquity of the royal race was but a devout imagination; 
that the century and more of monarchs of the royal 
line of Fergus were for the most part mere myth and 
shadow. Sir George Mackenzie grimly hinted that 
had my Lord been a Scots subject, it might have been 
his unpleasant duty to indict him for high treason. 

An earlier offender felt the full rigour of the law. 
In 1618 Thomas Ross had gone from the north to 
283 



BOOK OF EDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

study at Oxford. He wrote a libel on the Scots nation 
and pinned it to the door of St. Mary's Church. He 
was good enough to except the King and a few others, 
but the remaining Caledonians were roundly, not to 
say scurrilously, rated. Possibly the thing was pop- 
ular with those about him, but the King presently dis- 
covered in it a deep design to stir up the English to 
massacre the Scots. Ross was seized and packed off 
to Edinburgh for trial. Too late the unfortunate man 
saw his error or his danger. His plea of partial tempo- 
rary insanity availed him not,his right hand wasstruck 
off and then he was beheaded and quartered, his head 
was stuck on the Netherbow Port and his hand at the 
West Port. To learn him for his tricks, no doubt ! 

A great feature of old Edinburgh from the days 
of Allan Ramsay to those of SirWalter Scott was the 
Clubs. These,youwillunderstand,werenotatall like 
the clubs of to-day, of which the modern city possesses 
a good number, political and social- — institutions that 
inhabit large and stately premises with all the usual 
properties. The old Edinburgh club was a much sim- 
pler affair. It was a more or less formal set who met 
in a favourite tavern, ate, drank, and talked for some 
hours and then went their respective ways. Various 
writers have preserved the quaint names of many of 
these clubs, and given us a good deal of information 
on the subject. When you think of the famous men 
that were members, the talk, you believe, was worth 
hearing, but the memory of it has well-nigh perished, 
even as the speakers themselves, and bottle wit is as 
evanescent as that which produced it. The extant 
jokes seem to us of the thinnest. The Cape Club was 

284 



IN THE CITY OF EDINBURGH 

named, it is said, from the difficulty one of its mem- 
bers found in reaching home. When he got out at the 
Netherbow Port he had to make a sharp turn to the 
left, and so along Leith VVynd. He was confused with 
talk and liquor, and he found some difficulty in " doub- 
ling the cape," as it was called. Perhaps the obstacle 
lay on the other side of the Netherbow. The keeper 
hada keen eye for small profits, and was none toohasty 
in making the way plain either out of or into the city. 
Allan Ramsay felt the difficulty when he and his fel- 
lows lingered too long at Luckie Wood's — 
" Which aften cost us mony a gill 
To Aikenhead." 

Of this club Fergusson the poet was a member. Is 
it not commemorated in his verse? Fergusson was ca- 
tholic in his tastes. Johnnie Dowie's in Libberton's 
Wynd has been already mentioned in these pages. 
Here was to be met Paton the antiquary, and here in 
later days came Robert Burns, but indeed who did 
not at some time or other frequent this famous tavern ? 
noted for its Nor' Loch trout and its ale — that justly 
lauded Edinburgh ale of Archibald Younger, whose 
brewery was in Croft-an-righ,hard by Holyrood. The 
Crochallan Fencibles which met in the house of Daw- 
ney Douglas in theAnchor Close is chiefly known for 
its memories of Burns. Here he had his famous wit 
contest with SmelHe, his printer, whose printing office 
was in the same close, so that neither Burns nor he 
had far to go after the compounding or correcting of 
proofs. We picture Smellie to ourselves as a rough old 
Scot, unshaven and unshorn, with rough old clothes 
— his '' caustic wit was biting rude," and Burns con- 
285 



BOOK OFEDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

fessed its power. The poet praises the warmth and 
benevolence of his heart, and we need not rake in the 
ashes to discover his long-forgotten failings. William 
SmelliewasanotherWilliamNicol. There wasatouch 
of romance about the name of the club. It meant in 
Gaelic Colin's cattle; there was a mournful Gaelic air 
and song and tradition attached to it, Colin's wife had 
died young, but returned from the spirit world, and 
was seen on summer evenings, a scarce mortal shape, 
tending his cattle. Perhaps some antiquarian Scot 
or learned German will some day delight the curious 
with a monograph on the word Crochallan, but as yet 
the legend awaits investigation. Some of the clubs 
were " going strong " in the early years of the nine- 
teenth century. There was a Friday Club founded in 
June 1803 which met at various places in the New 
Town. Brougham made the punch, and it was fear- 
fully and wonderfully made. Lord Cockburn is its 
historian. He has some caustic sentences, as when he 
talks of Abercrombie's " contemptible stomach," and 
says George Cranstoun, Lord Corehouse, " is one of 
the very few persons who have not been made stupid 
by being made a Judge." This Friday Club was imit- 
ated in the Bonally Friday Club, which met twice a 
year at Bonally House, where Lord Cockburn lived. 
It was in its prime about 1842. Candidates for admis- 
sion were locked up in a dark room well provided with 
stools and chairs — not to sit on, but to tumble over ! 
The members dressed themselves up in skins of tigers 
and leopards and what not, and each had a penny 
trumpet. Among these the candidate was brought in 
blindfold, had first to listen to a solemn, pompous ad- 

286 



IN THE CITY OF EDINBURGH 

dress," then the bandage was removed and a sponge- 
ful of water dashed in his face. In a moment the 
wild beasts capered about, the masked actors danced 
around him, and the penny trumpets were lustily 
blown. The whole scene was calculated to strike awe 
and amazement into the mind of the new member," 
It would require a good deal of witty talk to make up 
for such things. I shall not pursue this tempting but 
disappointing subject further. I have touched suffi- 
ciently on the proceedings of the Edinburgh clubs. 
Here let fall the curtain. 



INDEX 



Adam, Dr. Alexander, 70. 
Anne, (|)ueen, 11, 196. 
Argyll, Earl of, 196, 197, 198. 
Argyll, Marquis of, 9. 
Arnot, Hugo, 151, 152. 
Art Associations, 177, 178, 184. 
Arthur's Seat, 67, 186, 243, 252, 

272. 
Assembly Rooms, 210, 211, 212, 

257- 
Auchinleck, Lord, 47, 145, 146. 
Aytoun, Professor, 66, 67, 163, 

166. 

Baillie of Jerviswood, 9, 197. 
Baillie, Matthew, 95, 96. 
Barclay, Dr. John, 75, 76, 77, 78. 
Barnard, Lady Anne, 203. 
Bells, the, surgeons, 97, 98. 
Bennet, John, surgeon, 92, 93. 
Blackie, Professor, 50, 65, 66, 

191. 
Blackwood' s Magazine, 162, 163, 

167. 
Blair, Dr. Hugh, 45, 46, 138. 
Blair, Lord President, 3, 20. 
" Blue Blanket," the, 104. 
Bluegowns, the, 242. 
Body-snatching, 78, 79, 80, 81, 

82, 83, 84, 85. 
Boswell, James, 18, 67, 145, 146, 

147, 148. 
Botanical Gardens, Royal, 74. 
Bough, Sam, 191. 
Braxfield, Lord, 3, 15, 16, 22, 23, 

182. 
Brodie, Deacon, 22, 58, 260, 

275. 
Brougham, Lord, 263. 
Brown, Dr. John, 52. 
Buchan, Earl of, 282, 283. 
Buchanan, George, 57, 58, 59, 

108, 112, 116. 
Burke and Hare murders, 85, 86. 
Burnet, Bishop, 41. 
Burns, Robert, 14, 19, 24, 93, 

139. 156, 167, 171,220, 228, 

243, 254, 257, 279, 285. 



Caddies, the, 249, 250. 
Calton Hill, 236. 
Cameron, P^ichard, 40. 
Campbell, Thomas, 159, 160. 
Candlish, Dr., 49, 50. 
Canongate, the, 6, 13, 43, 135, 
145, 147, 157, 161, 206, 208, 
212, 213, 229, 242, 249, 255, 
269, 272, 276. 
Carlyle, Dr. Alexander, 138, 

142, 143. 
Carlyle, Thomas, 21, 126, 168, 

169, 170. 
Carstares, Principal, 61, 62, 276. 
Castle, the, 38, 51, no, 115, 123, 
124, 140, 177, 221, 222, 223, 
226, 228, 247, 261, 272, 276, 
277. 
Chairmen, the, 248, 249. 
Chalmers, Dr., 49. 
Chambers, Robert, 11 8, 158, 

216. 
Charles I., 112, 118, 119, 120, 

179. 
Charles il., 119, 120, 121,222, 

283. 
Charles, Prince, 104, 121, 134, 

180, 199, 208, 249. 
Chiesly of Dairy, 10. 
Christison, Sir Robert, 66, 76, 

99, 264, 265. 
Claverhouse. See Dundee. 
Clerks of Eldin, the, 21. 
Clerks of Penicuik, the, 198, 

199, 274. 
Clubs and taverns, Edinburgh, 

135, 284, 285, 286, 287. 
Cockburn, Lord, 5, 15, 23, 24, 

25, 49, 286. 
Cockburn, Mrs., 200, 201, 202, 

204, 221. 
Coltheart, Thomas, 230, 231. 
Constable, publisher, 126, 155, 

156, 160, 214. 
Covenant, the, 37, 38, 39, 195, 

211. 
Creech, Lord Provost, 57, 133, 
134, 151, 260, 261. 

T 



INDEX 



Cromwell, 120, 222, 247. 
Cross, the, of Edinburgh, 39, 41, 

121, 122, 137, 197, 220, 221. 

247, 250, 258, 273, 275. 
Cullen, Dr., 43, 44, 94, 
Cullen, Lord, 43, 44. 

Dalzel, Professor, 64. 
Dalzell of Binns, 224, 225. 
Darnley, 36, 37, 113. 115, 222. 
David I., 31, 103. 
Deas, Lord, 28. 
Deid Chack, the, 260. 
De (^uincey, 86, 166, 167. 
Douglas, Gawin, 32, 131. 
Douglas, Margaret, Duchess of, 

205, 206. 
Dowie, Johnnie, 139, 140, 156, 

254, 285. 
Drinking habits, 22, 23, 47, 253. 

254, 279, 280, 281, 285. 
Drummond of Havvthornden, 

"9. 133- 
Duels, 244, 245. 
Duff, Jamie, 262. 
Dunbar, Professor, 64, 65, 68. 
Dundee, Viscount, 8, 223, 224, 

272. 

Edinburgh Review, 162, 163. 
Edinburgh underworld, 134, 154, 

15s, 172. 
Eldin, Lord, 17, 18, 21, 22, 182. 
Elliot, Miss Jean, 202. 
Erskine, Henry, 3, 17, 18, 19, 

20, 151, 256, 282. 
Erskine, Dr. John, 44, 45. 
Eskgrove, Lord, 17. 
Executions, 39, 257, 258, 259, 

260, 273, 274, 275, 276. 

Fergusson, Robert, 153, 154, 155, 
^ 157, 250, 251, 254, 285. 
Fergusson, Sir William, 96, 97. 
Flodden Wall, 105. 
Forbes, Lord President, 3. 
Fountainhall, Lord, 5, 78, 197, 

Gabriel's Road, 272, 273. 



Geddes, Jenny, 246, 247. 
George iii., 18. 180, 181. 
George iv., 107, 125, 126, 127. 
George Street, 74, 161, 183. 
Grassmarket, 38, 85, 227, 257, 

258, 275, 278. 
Gregory, Dr., 95. 
Greyfriars, 8, 33, 37, 44, 58, 59, 

252, 279, 280. 
Guard, Town, 250, 251, 252, 257, 

259- 

Guthrie, the Covenanter, 38, 39, 

40. _ 
Guthrie, the preacher, 49. 

Haddington, Earl of, $, 6, 116, 

246. 
I Hailes, Lord, 145. 

Hamilton, Sir William, 59, 6t,^ 
\ 68, 163. 
Harvey, Sir George, 187, 188. 
Heart of Midlothian. See Tol- 
; booth. 
Henley, W. E., 166, 173. 
Heriot, George, 116, 279. 
Hermand, Lord, 22, 23, 263, 

264. 
High School, 24, 69, 70, 73, 213, 

246. 
High Street, 6, 33, 69, 70, 133, 

162, 197, 207, 216, 220, 245, 

246, 251, 281. 
Hogg, Ettrick Shepherd, 158, 

159, 163, 184, 185. 
Holyrood, 103, 113, 118, 120, 

123, 179, 221, 233, 255, 256, 

274, 285. 
Home, John, 139, 143, 214, 215, 

216. 
Hume, David, 64, 137, 138, 139, 

140, 141, 142, 143, 158, 214. 

Infirmary, Royal, 89, 90. 
Inglis, Lord President, 27, 28, 
Irving, Edward, 168. 



James i., 103, 131, 241. 
James II., 103, 104. 



290 



INDEX 



James in., 104, 105. 
James IV., 105, 106. 
James v., 4, 103, 106, 107, 108, 

109, 131, 222. 
James vi. and i., 5, 55, 104, 115, 

116, 117, 118, 119, 131, 233, 

234. 235, 236, 245, 275, 281. 
James vii. and 11., 12, 119, 120, 

196, 281. 
Jamesone, George, 177, 178, 179. 
Jeffrey, Lord, 4, 23, 24, 25, 160, 

162, 168, 226. 
Johnson, Dr., 14, 18, 45, 67, 146, 

147, 205, 208. 
Johnstone, Sophy, 203, 204, 205. 
Jonson, Ben, 133. 

Kames, Lord, 12, 13, 14, 15, 

144, 145, 146, 155. 
Knox, Dr., anatomist, 80, 85, 

86, 87, 88, 89. 
Knox, John, 32, 33, 35, 36, 37, 

109, no, 114, 131. 

Laing, Dr. David, 76. 
Lang Gate, the, 271, 272. 
Lawnmarket, the, 228, 253, 259, 

269. 
Leighton, Archbishop, 59, 60. 
Leith, 51, 61, 92, 109, no, 152, 

171, 236, 244, 258, 273, 274, 

279. 
Leith, legends of, 236, 237. 
Leslie, Sir John, 67. 
Leyden, John, 159, 160. 
Lindsay, David, 108. 
Liston, Robert, surgeon, 81, 82, 

83, 96. 
Lockhart, J. G., 153, 155, 156, 

158, 159, 165, 283. 
Lockhart, Lord President, 6, 10, 

II, 162, 163, 165. 
Logan, Sheriff, 26. 
Luckenbooths, the, 133. 

Macintyre, Duncan, 252. 
Mackenzie, Sir George, 3, 6, 8, 

9, 10, II, 38, 279, 283. 
291 



Mackenzie, Henry, 152, 153. 
Macmorran, Bailie, 69, 70, 246. 
M'Nab of M'Nab, 262, 263. 
Macnee, Sir Daniel, 190, 191. 
Maitland, Secretary, 37, 109. 
Margaret, St., 31, 103, 177. 
Mary of Guise, 33, 34, 109, no, 

III, 112. 
Mary, Queen, 35, 36, 109, 112, 

113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 

164. 
Masson, Professor, 169. 
Melville, James, 131, 132, 241, 

242. 
Melville, Lord, 18, 25. 
Monboddo, Lord, 12, 13, 14, 

144. 155- 
Monros, the, 74, 75. 
Morton, Earl of, 37, 280. 

Nairne, Lady, 202, 203. 
Netherbow, 39, 40, 123, 179, 

242, 244, 269, 284, 285. 
Newton, Lord, 15. 
Nimmo, Peter, 169, 170. 
Nisbet of Dirleton, 6, 7. 
Nor' Loch, 33, 74, 140, 172, 271, 

272, 285. 
North Berwick witches, 233, 

234, 235, 236. 
North, Christopher (Professor 

Wilson), 66, 67, 162, 163, 

164, 165, 166, 170. 

Parliament House, 3, 4, 88, 89, 

120, 126, 145, 162, 247, 269. 

Physicians, Royal College of, 73, 

74. 
Pitcairne, Dr. Archibald, 90, 91, 

120, 136, 253. 
Pleydell, Counsellor, So, 256, 

280. 
Porteous, Captain, 144, 245, 252. 
Prestonpans, the battle of, 74, 

75- 

Queensberry, Duchess of, 206. 



INDEX 



Queensberry, Duke of, 269, 270. 
Queen's Maries, 35, 118. 

Raeburn, Sir Henry, 20, 182, 

183. 
Ramsay, Allan, painter, 180, 

181, 182. 
Ramsay, Allan, poet, 123, 133, 

134, 135. 136, 154, 180, 208, 

213, 255, 284, 285. 
Reformation, the, 32, 219. 
Reformers, political, 16. 
Restoration, the, 6, 120, 121, 

247. 
Rizzio, 112, 113, 195, 
Roberts, David, 188, 189. 
Robertson, Lord, 57, 162, 165, 

281. 
Robertson, Principal, 43, 44, 45, 

62, 138, 143, 256. 
Ross, Thomas, 283, 284. 
Ross, Walter, 256, 257. 
Royal Exchange, the, 229, 230, 
, 271. 

Ruddiman, Thomas, 64, 136. 
Rule, Principal, 60. 

Sanctuary, 255. 

Scott, David, 189, 190. 

Scott, Sir Walter, 31, 107, 108, 
125, 126, 147, 153, 154, 156, 
i57> 1581 159, 160, 161, 162, 
165, 167, 171, 184, 199, 204, 
221, 225, 242, 243, 250, 251, 
252, 262, 283, 284. 

Seizers, the, 252, 253. 

Sharp, Archbishop, 7, 41, 42, 
247. 

Siddons, Mrs., 93, 215, 216. 

Simpson, Sir James Y., 98, 99. 

Smellie, William, 285, 286. 

Smith, Adam, 14, 141, 142. 

Smith, Sydney, 137, 263. 

Smollett, Tobias, 153. 

St. Giles, church of, 36, 120, 147, 
170, 242, 244, 246, 247, 253, 
276. 

Stair, Lady, 228, 229, 269. 



Stair, Lord, 6. 

Stevenson, R. L., 16, 83, 154, 

157, 171, 172, 173, 174, 225. 
Stewart, Dugald, 94, 213. 
Stewart, Sir James, li, 12, 41. 
Strange, Sir Robert, 180. 
Street fights, 31, 32. 
Students, 55, 56. 
Surgeons, Royal College of, 73. 

92. 
Susanna, Countess of Eglinton, 

208. 
Sweet singers, the, 42, 43. 
Syme, James, 96. 
" Syntax, Dr.," 170. 

Telfer, Mrs., 153. 

Theatre, the, 93, 126, 139, 162, 
215, 216, 281, 282. 

Thomson of Duddingston, 185, 
186, 187. 

Tolbooth, the (Heart of Mid- 
lothian), 19, 40, 58, 242, 245, 
258, 259, 275, 276, 277, 278, 
279. 

Town Council, the, 55, 57, 58, 
67, 73. 74, 270, 271. 

Tron Kirk, the, 132, 138, 207, 
210, 251. 

Union, the, 237, 255. 
University, the, 55, 56, 58, 67, 
68,69,83, 147, 169, 170,246. 

Velasquez, 185, 188, 
Victoria, Queen, 127. 

Walker, Patrick, 40, 42, 248. 
Wallace, Lady, 27. 
Warriston, Johnston of, 6, 38, 

41, 197- 
Weather, the, 264, 265. 
Webster, Dr. Alexander, 46, 47, 
Wedderburn, 25, 26. 
Weir, Major, 225, 226, 232, 252. 
West Bow, the, 225, 226, 228, 

248, 258, 261. 

292 



INDEX 



West Port, the, 38, 85, 200, 

246, 284. 
White Rose of Scotland, the, 

198, 199. 
Wilkie, Sir David, 183, 184, 

185, 188. 



William III., II, 61. 

Wilson, Professor. See North, 

Christopher. 
Wodrow, the historian, 39, 134, 

227. 
Wood, Alexander, 93, 94. 



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Illustrations in Collotype. Extra crown 8vo, 340 pp., buckram, 68. 

net; vellum, 10s. 6cl. net. 

THE SIR WALTER SCOTT ORIGINALS 

Being an Account of Notables and Worthies, the Originals of Char- 
acters in the Waverley Novels. By W. S. CROCKETT. Frontispiece 
in Colour, and 44 Illustrations in Collotype. Extra crown 8vo, 448 pp., 
buckram, 68. net ; vellum, lOs. 6d. net. 

THE RIVER OF LONDON 

By HlLAiRE Belloc, M.A., Author of "The Path to Rome," "The 

Historic Thames," "The Old Road," etc. etc. AVith 16 Illustrations in 

Colour by John Muirhead. Extra crown 8vo, 200 pp., buckram, 

68. net ; leather, 78. 6cl. net ; vellum, 108. 6d. net. 

DR. JOHNSON'S MRS. THRALE 

Being the Autobiography of Mrs. Thrale, the friend and confidante 
of Dr. Samuel Johnson. With 27 Portraits in Collotype by Sir Joshua 
Reynolds, and other Illustrations. Extra crown 8vo, 368 pp., buck- 
ram, 68. net; vellum, 108. 6cl. net. 

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 
DR. ALEXANDER CARLYLE 

of INVERESK (1722-1805). Edited by J. Hill Burton. New Edition, 

with many additional Notes, Frontispiece in Colour, and 32 Portraits In 

Photogravure. Extra crown 8vo, 600 pp., buckram, 68. net; in 

vellum, 108. 6d. net. 

MEMORIALS OF HIS TIME 

By Lord Cockburn. New Edition, with many additional Notes 

and Preface. With 12 Portraits in Colour by Sir Henry Raeburn, 

and other Illustrations. Extra crown 8vo, 480 pp., buckram, 68. net ; 

vellum, 108. 6d. net. 

T. N. FOULIS, PUBLISHER, 91 GREAT RUSSELL STREET 
LONDON, W.C; 15 FREDERICK. STREET, EDINBURGH 



THE LIFE & CHARACTER SERIES 
THE KIRK AND ITS WORTHIES 

By Nicholas Dickson. Edited by D. Macleod Malloch. With 

i6 Illustrations in Colour, depicting old Scottish life, by well-known 

artists. Extra crown 8vo, 340 pp., buckram, 6s. net ; leather, 

78. 6cl. net ; vellum, 10s. 6d. net. 

MANSIE WAUCH 

Life in a Scottish Village a hundred years ago. By D. M. MoiR. 

New Edition. With 16 Illustrations in Colour by C. Martin Hardie, 

R.S.A. Extra crown 8vo, 360 pages, buckram, 53. net; leather, 

78. 6ci. net ; vellum, 10s. 6cl. net. 

Mansie Wauck stands among the great classics of Scottish life, such 
as Dean Ramsay and Annals of the Parish. It faithfully portrays the 
village life of Scotland at the beginning of last century in a humoroui 
and ivhimsical vein. 

ANNALS OF THE PARISH 

By John Galt. With 16 Illustrations in Colour by Henry W. Kerr, 

R.S.A. Extra crown 8vo, 316 pp., buckram, 5s. net; leather, 

78. 6cl. net ; vellum, lOs. 6d. net. 

" Certainly no such picture of the life of Scotland during the closing 
years of the i8th century has ever been written. He shows -us with vivid 
directness and reality what like were the quiet lives of leal folk, burghers, 
anaministers, andcounfry lairds a hundredyears ago." — S. R. CROCKETT. 

SCOTTISH LIFE & CHARACTER 

By Dean Ramsay. New Edition, entirely reset. Containing 16 Illus- 
trations in Colour by HENRY W. Kerr, R.S.A. Extra crown Bvo, 
400 pp., buckram, 6s. net ; leather, 78. 6d. net ; vellum, 
108. 6d. net. 

This great storehouse of Scottish humour is undoubtedly " the best book 
on Scottish life and character ever written." This edition owes much 
of its success to the superb illustrations of Mr. H. W. Kerr, R.S.A. 



THE BOOK OF EDINBURGH ANECDOTE 

By Francis Watt, Joint-Author of "Scotland of To-day," etc. etc. 

With 32 Portraits in Collotype. Extra crown Bvo, 312 pp., buckram, 

6s. net ; leather, 78. 6d. net ; parchment, lOs. 6d. net. 

THE BOOK OF GLASGOW ANECDOTE 

By D. MACLEOD Malloch. With a Frontispiece in Colour and 32 

Portraits in Collotype. Extra crown 8vo, 400 pp., buckram, 68. net ; 

leather, 7s. 6d. net ; parchment, lOs. 6d. net. 

T. N. FOULIS, PUBLISHER, 91 GREAT RUSSELL STREET 
LONDON, W.C.; 15 FREDERICK STREET, EDINBURGH 



THE LIFE y CHARACTER SERIES 



THE ENGLISH CHARACTER 

By Spencer Leigh Hughes, M.P., "Sub-Rosa" of \h& Daily News 
and Leader. With i6 Illustrations in Colour, depicting types of Eng- 
lish Character by Frederick Gardner. Extra crown 8vo, 280 pp., 
buckram, 5s. net ; leather, 7s. 6d. net ; vellum, 10s. 6d. net. 

THE LIGHTER SIDE OF IRISH LIFE 

By George A. Birmingham, Author of "Spanish Gold," etc. With 

16 Illustrations in Colour by Henry W. Kerr, R.S.A. New Edition. 

Extra crown 8vo, 288 pp., buckram, 5s. net ; velvet Persian, 78. 6ci. 

net ; vellum, lOs. 6cl. net. 

ENGLISH COUNTRY LIFE 

By Walter Raymond, Author of "The Book of Simple Delights," 

etc. With 16 Illustrations in Colour by Wilfred Ball, R.E. E.xtra 

crown 8vo, 462 pp., buckram, 5s. net ; velvet Persian, 78. 6cl. net ; 

vellum, lOs. 6d. net. 

Mr. Raymond, in this book, describes English country life as it still 
is in the hamlets of to-day, just as a hundred years ago. His ■well-knoivn 
touch sympatheticallv lights up the rustic character, its humour, and its 
simplicity. Mr. Wilfred Ball's illustrations are a notable feature of 
this interesting work, which will be one of the best gift-books of the season 

ENGLISH LIFE AND CHARACTER 

By Mary E. Mitford, Author of "Our Village." With 16 Pictures 

in Colour by Stanhope A. Forbes, R..-\., of typical scenes of English 

rural life. Extra crown 8vo, 350 pages, buckram, 5s. net; velvet 

Persian, 78. 6d. net ; vellum, 10s. 6d. net. 

To every lover of old English life this will prove a most attractive 
presentation book. The fine colouring of the a rtist's famous pictures will 
appeal strongly to all admirers of the real charm of quiet English rural 
life and character. 

IRISH LIFE AND CHARACTER 

By Mrs. S. C. Hall. Containing 16 Reproductions in Colour from the 
famous paintings of Erskine Nicol, R.A. Extra crown 8vo, 330 pp., 
buckram, 5s. net ; velvet Persian, 78. 6d. net; vellum, lOs. 6d. net. 

The finest of Erskine Nicols inimitable and world famous pictures of 
Irish life appropriately illustrate Mrs. S. C. Hall's well-known tales, 
and charmingly depict the full wit and humour of the true Irish 
character. 



T. N. FOULIS, PUBLISHER, 91 GREAT RUSSELL STREET 
LONDON, W.C; 15 FREDERICK STREET, EDINBURGH 



ROMANTIC LIVES 

A series of monographs, handsomely and artistically produced, of the 
lives of such beautiful and famous women and chivalrous men, whose 
careers provide to the present-day reader possibly the most fascinating 
stories in history. Each volume is written by a recognised authority 
on his subject, and contains illustrations in colour and in imitation 
photogravure of the best portraits and pictures relating to the period. 

With many Illustrations in Colour, in Gravure-tint, and in Collotype. 

Crown 8vo, buckram, with mounted illustrations, 58. net ; bound in 

velvet Persian and boxed, 7s. 6el. net ; vellum, lOs. 6d. net. 

NELL GWYN 

By Cecil Chesterton. With 4 Illustrations in Colour and 16 in 

Gravure-tint. 

The story of Nell Gwyn, who won the heart of King Cliarles II, is 

presented in this volume by Mr. Chesterton in a most attractive and 

readable manner, 

LADY HAMILTON 

By E. Hallam Moorhouse, Author of " Nelson's Lady Hamilton." 

With 4 Illustrations in Colour and 19 in Gravure-tint. 

Emma Hamilton is one of the most picturesque feminhie figures on the 

stage of history by reason of the great beauty which caused her to play 

such a conspicuous part in the events of Eurofe in her day, 

MARIE ANTOINETTE 

By Francis Bickley, Author of " King's Favourites." With 4 Illus- 
trations in Colour and 16 in Gravure-tint. 
Marie Antoinette stands out as one of the tragic figures of history. 
How her brilliant, extravagant court and her light-hearted intrigues 
culminated in the storm of the French Revolution, and her tragic end on 
the scaffold, is a most fascinating study. 

MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS 

By Hilda T. Skae, Author of "The Life of Mary, Queen of Scots." 
With 16 Illustrations in Colour and 8 Portraits in Collotype. 

PRINCE CHARLIE 

By William Power. With 16 Illustrations in Colour and 8 Portraits 
in Collotype. 



T. N. FOULIS, PUBLISHER, 91 GREAT RUSSELL STREET 
LONDON, W.C; 15 FREDERICK STREET, EDINBURGH 



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